Preparing to Meet Your Lawyer

Terry Clark, Senior Partner

This article, from the Law Society of Ontario, provides good general information on “What to do for your first meeting with your lawyer”.

At your first meeting you need to tell your lawyer or paralegal what has happened. You will want to find out how the law applies to your situation and what kind of legal options you have. You should also find out how much it will cost to hire the lawyer or paralegal to work for you.

Your goal is to decide if you want to hire the lawyer or paralegal. If you do, your first meeting is the beginning of a working relationship.

Please note: It is a good idea to ask the lawyer or paralegal whether you will be charged for your first meeting. If this meeting has been arranged through the Law Society Referral Service, you are entitled to a free consultation of up to 30 minutes. However, the consultation does not include legal work. If you ask the lawyer or paralegal to do any legal work (even during the consultation period), there may be a charge involved.

How to prepare for your meeting

  • Gather together all the documents that you have about your case.
  • ‚ÄčThink about what you want to say. Be ready to tell your story in a clear and logical order. You might want to write down dates and important points you want to say.
  • Make a list of questions you want to ask.  See Questions to ask when you meet.
  • Be prepared to talk about fees. A lawyer or paralegal may need some money – a retainer – so that he or she can begin working for you right away.
  • Legal Aid clients should bring a Legal Aid Certificate to their first meeting. You can apply for one at your local Legal Aid Office. See the Legal Aid Web site for more information.

 What you can do to help

  • Be prepared for your conversations and meetings. Bring any documents your lawyer or paralegal requests to see.  If you have questions, write them down so you are ready to ask them.
  • Read the letters and documents your lawyer or paralegal sends to you. Make a note of your questions. 
  • Keep all the letters and documents about your case in one place – a file folder or box – so that you can find them easily when you need them.
  • Respect the pressures that lawyers and paralegals usually work under. Come to your appointments on time. Call if you will be late or cannot make it. Understand that your lawyer or paralegal may not be able to answer your telephone calls right away.
  • Get to know the other staff in your lawyer’s or paralegal’s office. They may be able to help you. Call your lawyer or paralegal only when it is necessary.
  • Have reasonable expectations. You may not be able to get everything you want. The justice system is not perfect. There may be delays and disappointments.
  • See Questions to ask when you meet.

Questions to ask when you meet

About your legal options  

  • How does the law affect my situation?
  • What choices do I have?

About your case  

  • How long will my case take?
  • What will you do next? When will I hear from you next?
  • What should I do next? Is there anything I should not do?
  • Are my expectations realistic?

About fees

  • What is your hourly rate? How much will your services cost?
  • Will I have to pay for anything else?
  • What could change how much your services will cost?
  • How much is your retainer? (the amount to pay before a lawyer or paralegal starts work on a case)
  • Can I pay with a credit card? on a monthly basis?
  • Is there anything I can do to keep costs down?

About your lawyer’s or paralegal’s office practices  

  • How will you keep in touch with me?
  • Can someone else in your office give me information about my case?