One thing that every person is going to do before hiring an attorney is come into the office for a consultation. Some lawyers charge for a consultation, others offer a free consultation. I offer a free consultation because I think it is important for a client to find an attorney that is right for them before agreeing to pay for one. But what actually goes on in a free consultation?
Before scheduling a consultation, I make sure this is a case I handle.
I like to speak with you on the phone before scheduling a consultation. It saves both of our time if I learn that I don’t handle the type of case before I have you come by my office. In this case, I will usually refer you out to another attorney if I know someone who handles the type of case. The second thing that I do while on the phone is check to make sure I haven’t talked with anyone else on the other side of the case yet. Even if it was just a short meeting, the information I gained in a consultation from the person on the other side prevents me from handling the case for the opposing side.
If it is a case I handle, I schedule a time to meet with you.
If I determine that your case is something I do handle, I will schedule a time convenient for you to come by my office and meet with me in person. If you schedule an appointment with me and need to cancel for some reason, please let me know at least two hours before the scheduled time. I calendar in time for consultations the same as an important meeting with a long time friend. I always prepare to devote my full attention in the consultation. If you don’t show up to this meeting, I typically will refuse to represent you even if you call me after the fact with a good excuse. If your schedule doesn’t permit you to meet me in person, I will occasionally conduct the consultation over the phone.
What can I expect when I visit your office?
My primary office is on the sixth floor of 4225 Executive Square across the street from University Town Center (UTC). There is a parking structure dedicated to the building. From there, you can take the bridge over to the second floor of the building and then take the elevator up to the sixth floor. The receptionists at the front desk will greet you and guide you back to the office where we can speak privately. For clients who live further south, I offer consultations at the San Diego County Bar Association which is located on the 11th Floor of Columbia Tower on the corner of Columbia and B Street in Downtown San Diego. If you visit me here you will be required to provide identification to the receptionist so that they have a record of who visited.
What happens in the consultation?
In the consultation, I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour asking you a series of questions to find out more about the case. Sometimes it may not seem important to mention certain things until asked directly about them. This is why I always use a checklist so I don’t omit any important questions. I will provide you with some basic information about the process and answer questions you might have. After that, I will explain what I expect would be the first step I would take if you decide to retain me. If you feel comfortable with me at that point, I will discuss my fees for the representation and see if they are within your means. If both the client and I want to go forward at that point, I will go over the terms of my retainer agreement and set a date for payment and signing of the retainer agreement.
I don’t do any work on behalf of a client until I have received payment up front. This is explained in my retainer agreement as well so even if we both sign the retainer agreement, I am not obligated to represent you until you provide an agreed upon payment.
What if I decide not to hire you?
If you decides to not hire me, I will send a letter explaining any advice I gave you and advising you to hire an attorney. The letter may not always be as formal or detailed but I want to make sure that there is a clear record of the last thing I said to you. For example, if you meet with me and talk about hiring me in the future for a case and expect you will get in touch with me in a week or two, I will make that clear in an e-mail. This makes it clear that I am waiting on you before I do any work.
What if I can’t afford your fees?
Sometimes when the discussion of fees comes up the client indicates that my fees are more than he or she can pay. In a small number of cases it might make sense to work out a limited agreement with the client through which I will help fill out forms but not take on the case and represent the client in court. I say this only works with a small number of cases because in more complex cases this sort of arrangement might not make sense.
How do you communicate with clients after the initial meeting?
I try to meet with clients first in person so that I can get a better feel for their personality. However, in some cases I will only ever speak with a client by phone and e-mail. For updates on the case, I tend to use e-mail because I find that it makes it easier for both of us. Many clients are busy working during the day and don’t have time to take phone calls or meet in the office so this is a good way to get answers to questions that come up. E-mail is also great because I can easily get your message when I am out traveling.
How should I get in touch with you if I want to meet?
You can send me an e-mail through the contact form with your information. If you don’t mind me calling you directly please specify. That way I can call you back and discuss some initial things. If you call and don’t reach me it is best to send me an e-mail through the contact form so that I can get back with you. If you would like to schedule a consultation over e-mail, please specify the type of issue you have and suggest a few times that you would be available to meet with you so that I can quickly respond with a time that works for me.