Every time I set up an initial consultation with a prospective client, I am asked “What do I need to bring with me?” It’s a great question and you should be prepared to make the most out of your time, your attorney’s time, and your money. So I have broken down the top five things that I ask clients to “bring to the table”:
1. HONESTY. Bring it. All of it. Don’t omit. Don’t lie. Don’t exaggerate. Pure honesty. As hard as it may be, you must be honest and you must not omit. Surprise!… you are sitting in a courtroom months later and your spouse is on the witness stand with your attorney questioning your spouse and your spouse blurts out something that you never disclosed to your attorney. You know who that negatively effects - not your attorney…you. It can ruin your case. So just don’t do it. Do it for yourself and be honesty because ultimately you are the one who may be negatively impacted by the lack of honesty. I tell my clients every meeting…I am not here to judge. I am here to represent you in the best possible way I can. But I can’t represent you in every possible way unless I know everything. So just be honest with me and we will deal with whatever there is to deal with. But I can’t deal with it, unless you tell me about.
2. GOALS. Know what you want, or at least a general idea of what you want. You may not have a true understanding of what you are entitled to, but you should know at least what you want. We are going to discuss your options, your entitlements, your rights. Go into your meeting with a list of your goals - what are you hoping to accomplish? Two positive things will come out of that meeting: (1) you will have actually given some deeper thought to your circumstance and (2) you will learn at the very first meeting whether you need to reevaluate without wasting money.
3. PAPERWORK. Specifically for a case that is already pending. If you have a case pending, get a copy of your file from the courthouse and bring it with you. Lawyers know how to sort through paperwork to figure out the most important topics to discuss. Don’t just refer to it, bring it and give it to the lawyer. CAUTION: don’t bring your entire filing cabinet of papers that you have acquired over the last ten years. Just don’t.
4. PATIENCE AND A CHILL PILL. Relax. Relax. Relax. You’re going to get through it. It’s a cause for anxiety sure - You’re meeting someone new. You’re about to disclose some things you may consider embarrassing, your secrets, your financials, and parts of your life you wouldn’t even tell your best friend. Just relax. Because again, I’m not judging you. It’s my job to represent you, not judge you. I’m going to interrupt you a million times and ask you a thousand questions and you will get through it, but you have to remember to relax, breathe, and take a chill pill because I can promise you, you will be less anxious when you walk out of that first meeting than you were when you made the phone call to schedule and ultimately walked into that meeting.
5. PEN AND PAPER (or an ipad these days). You’ve heard the advice to take a friend/spouse/companion to the doctor with you to have a second set of ears to listen to all of the information. Well you can’t do that with your lawyer necessarily, but what you can do is bring a pad and pencil or an ipad to take notes. You are going to need it. Not only are you going to walk away with some homework, but you are going to be fed sooooooooo much information that you will not remember due to emotions running high, the quantity of information, and the sheer unfamiliarity. So take notes and ask questions. That’s part of what you are paying for.
It's not complex. It truly isn’t. It just requires some forethought and some deep breaths. In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, the G.O.A.T.'s wife once said, "As I step on the runway, I take a deep breath, focus on a point in the distance, and go!" - Gisele Bundchen