What Information Should I Have Before I Consult a Lawyer?
Consulting a lawyer for any reason can be a stressful experience. In many situations, people who need a lawyer’s assistance for civil or criminal matters are already under enormous amounts of pressure. Knowing exactly what to do before you head down to the attorney’s office can help you take some control of a situation and make the process easier for everyone.
Prepare a list of questions you want to ask your lawyer. Include any questions you may have. Examples of questions include any alternative settlements, any fees, overall fees and expected length of the case. Remember, your attorney is there to help you through the situation. If you don’t understand a process or need to clarify something, ask away.
Bring any paperwork relevant to your case. If you’re meeting with a divorce attorney, bring copies of your marriage certificate, pre-nuptial agreements, birth certificates, deeds, bills of sale, receipts etc. Look for photographs, documents, emails, bank statements, phone calls, phone statements and other correspondence. It’s your lawyer’s job to sift through this information and help you determine the best way to go about your defense or the best offensive maneuvers.
Bring originals and copies of any legal and medical documents you already have in your possession, such as court summons, divorce decrees, tax lien demands or medical records. Make sure you always make copies of all the paperwork, reproduce photos and have them correctly notarized or authenticated in the event of the loss of the original.
Create a timeline even before you step into the office. As early as you can, write down what happened. Outline the events as you remember them, who was there, what happened or what didn’t happen. Write down everything you remember and resist the temptation to make yourself look good. Honesty is easier to corroborate. At this point, it’s also helpful to start documenting everything that’s happening to you.
Even if it hurts you, divulge important information that may impact a decision. It’s human nature to hide any embarrassing experiences or skeletons in the closet. It’s your lawyer’s job to know and he or she is bound by law to not say a word.
The more information your attorney knows, the more they will be able to help you. More knowledge can help them prepare a feasible defense or line of attack for you. They can help explain your conduct and get you what you want out of your case. If you’re not sure if it’s relevant, ask. Usually, the skeleton list includes anything that can be used to attack your character: gambling, drug or alcohol use, previous infractions, previous convictions or arrests, vices, affairs, money issues and more. Finally, ask whom you can contact in the event you remember something or need to ask a pressing question. Many attorneys have junior partners or interns who help them out with cases, and you may be able to turn information over to them.