The initial meeting between an attorney and a new client is an important step in the attorney-client relationship. Although first contact may be through a brief telephone call or e-mail exchange, the initial in-person meeting provides both the attorney and the client with necessary information about the case and affords each an opportunity to exchange expectations. In this multi-part post, we explore several aspects of the initial attorney-client meeting and how clients can make this meeting as productive as possible.
Many times, the first question a client asks is:”Will I have to pay for this initial meeting?” The answer is that many attorneys offer clients, or potential clients, a “free initial consultation.” This allows the client an ability to meet with their attorney without being concerned that the “clock is running,” thereby affording the client as much time as necessary to provide their attorney with information concerning their case. If the attorney has not yet agreed to represent the client, this initial consultation also affords the attorney an opportunity to evaluate the case and determine whether they will provide representation.
One of the first things the attorney will review with the client is a representation and fee agreement. In Massachusetts, with limited exceptions, an attorney is required to provide the client a written document outlining the scope of the representation and the basis of the rates and fees that the client is required to pay. It is important that the client take as much time as they require to carefully read this agreement. A client should not feel pressured to sign a representation and fee agreement that they do not understand. If the client has questions they need to ask the attorney. If the client has concerns, they can have the agreement reviewed by alternate counsel or can ask the attorney to modify the agreement in order to address those concerns.
If the client will pay the attorney on an hourly basis (as opposed to contingency) the attorney will usually require the client to bring a check for a retainer amount to the initial meeting. Some attorneys require payment of the retainer in certified funds (i.e., certified check or money order), therefore it is important for the client to check with the attorney prior to their meeting in order to bring the correct form of payment.
Once the fee and representation agreement is signed, and the retainer provided (if necessary), the attorney will want to review the case with the client. Our next post will explore things a client should do, and bring, to the initial meeting.