You’ve recently had a legal issue arise. You know you need to contact an attorney, but you have never done that before. What should you expect? How do you know what kind of attorney you need? What are they going to ask you? What information do you need when you call them?
What Should I Expect?
When you call an attorney’s office, there is no promise that you will get to talk to an attorney on the first call. It is not that attorneys have no time for you, but they have other clients and cases and may be out of the office in court. Also, do you really want to hire an attorney who has nothing better to do but to wait on potential clients to call?
You should expect to talk to the legal secretary or the paralegal who will ask you for information regarding your case and will be your lifeline for scheduling an appointment. You should also know the legal secretary or paralegal you speak to is covered by the same confidentiality standard (and attorney-client privilege) as any attorney.
What Are They Going to Ask Me?
The legal secretary or paralegal will gather basic contact information while talking to you, such as your name, phone number, and email address.
Now, we know what you are thinking, “My email address? Why?” This is how most firms communicate with you, from scheduling your initial appointment, sharing updates on your case, and even sending out your monthly invoice.
You will need the names of everyone involved in the case to tell the legal secretary or paralegal. Some potential clients are hesitant to provide this information, but it is absolutely necessary to perform what is known as a “conflict of interest check.” This ensures that the attorney hasn’t previously represented the other party to the case or doesn’t have a business relationship with the other party that could conflict with the attorney’s loyalty to you.
If there is a conflict of interest, you will likely be informed immediately, and you’ll be referred to the State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral Service. Unfortunately, the law firm isn’t allowed to reveal to you what that conflict may be, per the State Bar of Texas Ethics Rules. If there is not a conflict, then the legal secretary or paralegal will continue to gather information from you.
After the conflict of interest check, you will be asked more detailed questions about your case. Those questions will help guide the legal secretary or paralegal on what kind of case you may have. Based on the information you provide the questions will become more direct and relevant to you and your case.
What Information Do I Need When I Call?
When you call an attorney’s office, it is very important that you have all of your documents in front of you. If you were served papers, if you have a contract, or if you have a question about your divorce decree, then having those documents right in front of you will help the attorney get a full picture of your individual case.
Something that most people don’t think about before they call an attorney’s office is what their desired outcome is. Sometimes this is simple; if you’re calling for a divorce, then your desired outcome is to no longer be married. However, if you have a custody dispute, then it is helpful for you to put some thought into who should have custody of the children, how much visitation should each parent get with the children, and where (city/state) should the children have to live.
How Much Does a Phone Call Cost?
After the legal secretary or paralegal has asked enough questions to find out what kind of case you have, they will confer with an attorney to get the possible deposit price and to see if the attorney will be able to meet with you. The legal secretary or paralegal cannot accept cases or set fees for potential cases; only a licensed attorney can do those things.
There is no guarantee that the attorney will be able to take your case, but the deposit amount helps you to know what the up-front cost will be, if any, in order for you to get started. The initial phone call doesn’t normally incur any charge unless the attorney ends up taking your case. However, each law firm is different in this aspect.
Calling an attorney’s office can be intimidating if you’ve never had to hire an attorney before. However, you should remember that attorneys, although professionals, ultimately provide a service to you. Therefore, you shouldn’t be intimidated to make a phone call because you should expect to receive professional service.
If, or rather when, the time comes for you to contact an attorney’s office, we hope this blog gives you a little more understanding as to what to expect so you can make that call with confidence.
–Authored by Victoria Foster, Legal Secretary,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479