What should you bring with you when meeting your lawyer for the first time?

Although it shouldn’t be, meeting with a new lawyer can seem like an intimidating prospect. Generally, you are concerned about whatever issue brings you to need a lawyer. You are also concerned about how much it is going to cost to explain your issues and concerns.

There are a number of documents you can organize and prepare to make your experience more productive. If your business is a corporation, you should bring your Articles of Incorporation; your bylaws; your corporate minutes; and your list of officers and directors.  If you are a limited liability company, you should bring your Articles of Organization and your operating agreement. If you are a sole proprietor or a business of a different type, you should bring whatever documentation you may have which sets forth the manner in which your business operates.

In addition to the formation documents, you should bring as much documentation as possible surrounding the issue which brings you to your lawyer. If you have received a demand letter or a lawsuit from someone, you should bring all documentation that you have which supports your position that you are not responsible. This may include contracts; invoices; evidence of payment; correspondence (either by hard copy or email); and financial documents. Similarly, if you are seeking to collect money or enforce some other right against someone else, you should prepare a similar set of documents.

In order to be more efficient with time and, particularly, your money, you should organize and label your documentation. This will reduce the amount of time your lawyer has to spend reviewing your materials.  Generally, lawyers bill by the 1/10th of the hour, so you want to make sure that they are using that time to get to the substance of your concern rather than organizing your paperwork.

Finally, you should bring a list of questions. There will be a great deal of information going back and forth between you and your lawyer. It is better to have your questions organized in advance so you do not lose track of your concerns.  Questions should include:

  • How is your lawyer billing you for the work being performed?
  • What additional information will your lawyer need to proceed?
  • Are there any timelines that you need to be attentive to?
    • For example, is there a statute of limitations that may run on your claim; or
    • Is there a set timeline within which you need to respond
  • What is your lawyer’s plan of action?
  • How will your lawyer communicate with you?
  • What are the possible outcomes – good and bad – that can occur?

It is important that you are persistent in getting answers to your questions. You must remember that your lawyer works for you. Your concerns, questions, issues should be what drives the relationship.

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