How to get the most out of your consultation

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 prospective clients to be under a great deal of stress and to feel frustrated or confused by what’s going on.

During consultations, I evaluate the evidence, assess the situation, identify the relevant law or legal issues, analyze the options, and explain which options will most likely help the prospective client achieve their 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 your consultation.

1. Be willing to answer questions fully and completely.

Remember that I'm not there to judge you. I 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 your damages evidence.

Most civil claims require proof of damages. If a lawsuit is something you want to consider, then there will need to be a discussion of the damages or harms that you've suffered.

Damages do not have to be economic or financial. For example, people who have been defamed or who have their privacy invade generally incur at least three types of damages: psychological, reputational, and economic.

The psychological damage is generally the harm the injured person feels, such as anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, fear, anger, or grief.

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, hold the injured person in much lower esteem, which often leads to professional and social shunning.

The economic damages people suffer can usually be objectively measured. Economic damages occur when defamation results in job losses, cancellations of business contracts, or increased marketing expenses for repairing businesses’ reputations.

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 2020.

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