Meeting with an attorney may be daunting for anyone who is encountering legal problems for the first time.
You would therefore want to be prepared for your first meeting/consultation and get the most from it.
It is important to bring a pen and a paper with you. You may also wish to make a list of questions prior to your consultation to ask your attorney, if you still have questions after consultation. That way you will leave the consultation with answers to the many questions you undoubtedly have.
Attorneys would generally request that you fill out a mandate and fee agreement prior to consultation. This ensures that the attorney receives a mandate from you (even if the mandate is just “consultation” or “advice”) as well as setting out the general costs of letters, telephone calls etc. The last thing you need, in addition to your legal problem, is a bill with expenses you cannot afford or were unaware that you were going to be billed for. The purpose of a mandate and fee agreement is transparency from your attorney as to costs as well as clear instructions from you, the client.
In South Africa, attorneys are also expected to make a copy of your ID and proof of residence, as per Government rules.
During your first meeting/consultation with your attorney, you should request general cost and time estimates as well as numerous options to resolve your legal problem. There is almost always more than one way to go about things and you may have other options but to head straight to court and incur the costs of litigation. Dependant on your unique circumstances of your case (remember, no 2 cases are necessarily the same) as well as your budget, you may first endeavour to resolve things via alternative dispute mechanisms rather than litigation directly. However, in certain circumstances, litigation may be your only option.
It is important to understand that attorneys can almost never give you an exact figure on litigation. It would be dependant on the amount of work that would go into the particular route you have elected to follow as well as the amount of opposition received. Therefore, your attorney should provide you with general cost estimates as your matter proceeds and usually in a step by step estimate eg. Writing a letter of demand would cost X. Dependant on the oppositions response, the next step would only be able to be estimated once such response is received. If the response is positive, a Settlement Agreement may be the next step and thus your attorney can give a cost estimate on drafting such Settlement. However, if the response is negative, your attorney may give you a cost estimate on issuing Summons, which costs would in all likelihood differ from the mere drafting of a Settlement Agreement.
Your attorney should know the whole story- this is vital. Your attorney should be told all relevant facts. Hiding crucial information may result in not only embarrassment for your attorney and yourself if such facts are exposed later on, but may also be detrimental to your case as well as your pocket. Honesty is the best policy with your attorney. However, remember, that an attorney would usually have allocated 45-60 minutes for your consultation and charged accordingly. Consultations in excess of this time may be billed for in addition. Use your time wisely with your attorney and while you should share all relevant facts, irrelevant facts waste time and may waste your money.
Your attorney should provide you with an unbiased opinion on your matter. It does not help to have an attorney who only tells you what you want to hear. You need to have an unbiased opinion, so that you do not waste money on unnecessary legal fees for a lost cause or a case that has very little chance of being Ruled in your favour. Therefore, your attorney should provide you with pro’s and con’s of your case and different scenario’s, wherever possible.
Your attorney should also have a general response period for queries. This ensures that your queries are answered within a reasonable time, thus avoiding misunderstandings and misgivings from both sides and not unnecessarily escalating your legal fees.
Contact us today to set up your consultation at https://www.hamelattorneys.co.za/contact/ or on 012 754 3385. Our consultations may be done in person (after lock-down) or at any time, with set appointment online via Skype.