Some prospective clients call us when their privacy rights were violated or their reputations are under attack. Although every person’s or business’s circumstances are different, it’s common for callers to be under a great deal of stress and to feel frustrated or confused by what’s going on.
Here's a little information on what to expect during a consultation and how to have a productive call.
Our consultations happen by phone because they're meant to be as low-key and low-stress as we can make them. We make the call at the start of the appointment and take things one step at a time.
During consultations, we start the conversation by talking about what's been happening, when it all started, and what (ideally) the goals of the call are. We talk about any evidence and events, identify the relevant law or legal issues at work, brainstorm about options, and think through which options will most likely help the prospective client achieve their goals and objectives. In many consultations, we will develop a proposed plan for moving forward.
Here are four things that can help you get the most out of the call.
1. Be willing to answer questions fully and completely.
Remember that we are not there to judge you. We want to help. There are some basic questions an attorney needs answers to in almost every case in order to help with the situation. What happened? When did it happen? Who did it? Why did they do it?
But sometimes there are more sensitive or detailed questions attorneys ask to determine what options you might have and what might make sense for you. Don’t be afraid to ask why an attorney needs to know something if it seems irrelevant to you.
When answering an attorney’s questions, answer fully and completely, even if the whole truth is embarrassing, or if you think it makes you look bad, or if you’re afraid the attorney or anyone else will think less of you. Again, if you're not sure if something is confidential, you can ask.
Your consultation is confidential so that you can talk openly about the situation. One of the least helpful things you can do is shield your attorney from the whole truth, for any reason. Attorneys need to understand the good, the bad, and the ugly if we’re going to give you the best advice for your situation.
2. Be familiar with the timeline of events.
While we tend to remember events in terms of their importance or their emotional impact on us, it is often helpful if you can discuss events in chronological order if asked to do so. This is especially important for determining what deadlines or other time limitations might affect your options or your case.
You don’t need to create a formal timeline before a consultation. Just be prepared, to the extent possible, to discuss when the situation first started, what’s happened since then, and where things are now.
3. Be ready to explain how this has harmed you (damages).
Most civil claims require proof of damages. "Damages" refers to the amount of money that might be awarded for a successful claim. There are different kinds of damages that connect to different kinds of harms.
People who have been defamed or who have their privacy invade generally have at least three types of damages: psychological, reputational, and economic.
Economic or financial damages are what most often come to mind. They can usually be proven objectively and might include out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills or unpaid time off. Economic damages can also include job loss or reduced income, cancellations of business contracts, or increased marketing expenses for repairing businesses’ reputations.
The psychological damage is generally the harm the injured person feels, such as anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, fear, anger, or grief. These sorts of damages are important to discuss and to include in the overall assessment. They are also the most difficult to prove because they don't have an objective measurement. Different people experience and value pain differently.
The reputational damage occurs in the minds of the people who read or hear the defamation or who see or learn about the previously private information and, as a result, think less of the person. Social, community, and professional shunning are sometimes how we know the harm has occurred. Like pain and suffering, reputational harm can be challenging to prove. Sometimes experts are needed to make sure the judge or jury understands the true value of the harm.
If we are going to be talking about a lawsuit, we will be talking about damages.
4. Have questions and goals in mind ahead of time.
You may already have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. You may just know that what’s happened to you is wrong, but not what you can do about it. Whether you want to talk about a specific plan you have in mind or get information on what your options are and make a plan, let the attorney know what you’re thinking and what questions and concerns you have.
While attorneys try to cover the common issues and options, you and your situation are unique so if you have something particular to discuss, please bring it up. It can be helpful to write down your questions or concerns so you can be sure they are covered during the consultation. If you do not understand something an attorney says, ask them to explain. Make sure you understand what the attorney has told you before you end the consultation.
Whether it’s working with our firm or another one, keeping these four things in mind can help make your consultation more productive and helpful.
By Alexandra Tracy-Ramirez | © The Law Offices of Alexandra Tracy-Ramirez 2022.
All rights reserved.