Here are the questions you should ask a lawyer in a first appointment:
First: find out what professional memberships the lawyer has.
Are they a member of their state law society? Quite often it’s an additional membership to where they actually have to be registered professionally. Every lawyer has to have their registration, whether it is to a legal services board or a bar association.
But what are their other professional membership? Good lawyers are usually members of their local law society or law institute which provides best practice, further education, extra accreditations, and all sorts of checklists and guidelines.
Second: What other accreditations and degrees do they have?
A lawyer might publish this information on their website or LinkedIn account, so if you’ve done your research prior to seeing your lawyer, you may already know.
Have they actually delved deeper into dispute resolution, or is there another particular area of practice that they’ve done further study in? Do have an interest in collaborative practice or they have an interest in trauma informed practice?
Third: what percentage of work do they do in this particular kind of matter?
The breakdown of the work that I do is roughly 40% in my main practice area, 30-40% in a secondary practice area, and then the rest is made up of bits and pieces. Sometimes it’s up to 60% in my main practice area.
How many sort of cases have you done like this? If it’s a litigation matter, if it’s a particular kind of claim, it’s important to ask. But also: how many of these kind of matters do you have going at the moment? Do they have capacity, because we don’t want someone who’s running a hundred litigation files.
Fourth: Who else is gonna be working on my file with you?
If you are not my main contact and you are a primary lawyer, is there a junior lawyer and maybe a paralegal that are gonna be working on the file? Who’s gonna be the direct contact?
Fifth: what’s the best way to communicate with you?
Can you call through at any time and get thought to them? Probably not. If it’s someone who is a fairly good lawyer and has a lot of matters, you’re going to have to make a phone appointment or you’re going to have to email them directly for a time.
If the best form of communication is email, how quickly are you likely to turn that around? When am I likely to hear from you? Those sorts of things. Is it gonna take a week to get me some initial information or answer my question?
Sixth: then you’re gonna actually ask some questions specifically around your matter.
What are the options to resolve it quickly that aren’t going to court? There should be two or three potential other options that should be explored; what the steps are in those options and what’s the cost on each of those? What are the timeframes on each of the options as well?
Lastly: for costs, does the lawyer provide a fixed fee quote on each of those different options?
Can they at least give you aan indication of what the cost would be?