Before your initial meeting with your lawyer, you may be wondering what will happen at the meeting. What will be discussed, and what questions should you ask? What will the lawyer ask you?
Be prepared to be frank and honest with your lawyer. They are bound by professional rules of client confidentiality not to reveal anything you tell them, and it is in your interests to tell them everything you think may be relevant so they can advise you on the best course of action.
If there is anything you don’t understand, always ask. The law is a specialist area, full of jargon and acronyms, so there is no need for embarrassment. The lawyer should be happy to answer your questions. If not, then you may want to hire a different lawyer.
It is a good idea to take any letters, emails, contracts or other documents with you that may be relevant to your case. Have a think before you arrive about any particular questions you want to ask.
If your consulting the lawyer on a non-contentious issue, such as drafting a contract or buying a house, then the lawyer should clearly explain what work has to be done, how long it is likely to take, and how much it will cost.
If you are hiring the lawyer for a contentious issue, then your lawyer should explain whether he or she can help you, what options you have, and how likely these are to be successful. They should give you an idea of how long your case will take, and whether you will have to go to court or a tribunal or some other form of alternative dispute resolution procedure such as mediation or arbitration.
They should explain how much each course of action could cost, and what funding is available. They may ask you about legal expenses insurance and union membership, through which you may be able to claim back legal expenses. If you are eligible for legal aid, then they should explain the process for claiming this and what it will cover. If you are funding your case on a conditional fee basis (also known as ‘no win, no fee’) then they should tell you exactly how this works and how it will affect any compensation you receive. Your solicitor should give you an estimate of how much legal work will cost, including a breakdown into legal fees and other expenses.
If you are bringing a legal case against another person or organisation then you may be eligible to pay the other side’s legal expenses (known as costs). Your solicitor should explain what you may have to pay if you lose your case.
The lawyer you have the initial meeting with may not me the one who will handle your claim or other legal business. If so, they should tell you will be doing the work. If they don’t tell you this, then ask.
Finally, your lawyer should inform you how to go about registering a complaint if you are in any way dissatisfied with the professional service he or she provides.
Your solicitor should send you a client care letter after the meeting, confirming that the firm has agreed to accept the work. The letter should say who will be handling the work, and how you will be updated on progress. It should include contact details of a person at the firm who will handle any complaints. It should also summarise advice already given, state how long the matter is likely to take, and provide an estimate of costs. If there is a risk that you will be liable for the other side’s costs then this should be stated.
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