What Is a Free Consultation with a Lawyer?

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If you have ever needed to search for a personal injury lawyer in Long Beach, you may have noticed that many law firms advertise free consultations. It is important to know what this means and what to expect should you schedule a consultation with an attorney. The consultation is a client’s opportunity to thoroughly vet an attorney and ensure that he or she is the right choice for representing the client’s case.

Free Consultations

It is important to remember that attorneys have no obligation to offer free consultations. Some may charge small fees for consultations, but law firms and lawyers offer free consultations primarily to attract new clients. This means the attorney is hoping to make a good impression so clients will hire him or her to handle their lawsuits. Potential clients should recognize the free consultation as the perfect time to ask several questions to determine if the attorney is right for the case.

All potential clients must remember that a free consultation does not qualify as legal representation or legal advice. Legal representation starts when a client and an attorney sign a contract agreeing to representation, which may or may not happen after a consultation. During a free consultation, the potential client provides the attorney with facts about his or her situation, and the attorney interprets those facts and helps the client understand the legal implications. Once the attorney fully understands the client’s situation, he or she will likely provide a general summary of what to expect from the legal process and the most likely outcome of the case.

Potential clients should remember that a lawyer’s interpretation of provided facts during a consultation does not constitute official legal advice. Legal advice is oral or written recommendations based on an analysis of the law concerning a specific situation. It is not the same thing as providing general legal information. During a consultation, an attorney may offer basic legal information about aspects of the client’s issue, but the attorney will only offer actual legal advice once he or she has entered into a contract with the client for official representation.

Questions to Ask During Your Free Consultation

If you are thinking of taking advantage of a lawyer’s offer for a free consultation, then it is likely you have some legal matter in mind that requires professional representation. It is crucial to take the consultation process seriously, so prepare a few questions in advance.

  1. How long have you practiced law in this area? It is important to know your attorney’s level of familiarity with the local courts and state laws that may come into play in your case.
  2. How many cases have you handled similar to mine? You do not want to hire a medical malpractice attorney for a car accident case, so make sure the attorney you meet has experience with the specific practice area that pertains to your claim.
  3. What type of success have you had in the past with similar cases? Your attorney will probably not offer specific details about past cases but may be able to provide you with a general understanding of the outcomes of similar cases he or she has handled in the past.
  4. Will you settle or go to trial? The settlement value and trial value of a claim can be dramatically different. You should find a lawyer who can offer a realistic interpretation of your claim and pursue whichever avenue works more in your favor.
  5. Do you think I can win my case? Attorneys will rarely let a winning case walk out the door, so if an attorney offers to represent you it probably means your claim has merit. Ask the attorney about his or her thoughts concerning your odds of success.

Along with these general questions, you should come up with more of your own that pertain to your specific situation. Remember: a legal consultation is not the same thing as legal advice or legal representation, so make sure you are confident in your choice of attorney before signing any contracts for representation.