First interview and discussing costs

First interview

The first appointment with a solicitor is usually called an interview or conference. It is a confidential communication between you and the lawyer, sometimes held in a different room to the solicitor’s office. This is when you explain the situation to the solicitor in your own words.

One of the best ways to make the relationship with your lawyer successful is to inform yourself about the area of the law that you are dealing with before you go to the first interview. If you are informed, it is easier to ask questions and it will save time and money.

The solicitor will listen and usually take notes. They will probably ask a number of questions, including personal information (name, address etc), the details of the story and if any other people were involved. They will often ask for any evidence to verify the details.

The solicitor may provide legal advice. Legal advice is a statement of the law, applying all the relevant factors and principles to the circumstances of a particular case. It includes discussing the possible alternatives and, if appropriate, the best option for action. It is often difficult for a solicitor to give firm advice in one interview. Sometimes lawyers need to check up on the details of the law as it currently stands.

It is best to be prepared before going to see a solicitor as it often saves both you and the lawyer time and money. It is important to get as much information as possible out of the first interview. It can be very useful to write a report of the situation with as much detail as possible before seeing a solicitor and to take all the relevant paperwork to the interview. This is when you can ask questions, particularly about the options which are available and the type of service the solicitor can provide. It is always useful to take notes during any meetings or communication with your lawyer.

Discussing costs

People, both lawyers and clients, are often uncomfortable discussing money, particularly at the beginning of a professional relationship. It is important that you understand the costs involved in your matter to avoid problems later on. If the costs are likely to exceed $3000 your lawyer must provide you with a written costs disclosure and provide an estimate of costs and the basis for the charging of those costs. If your costs fall into the $750-$3000 range, the lawyer must disclose those matters on the prescribed short form disclosure document. Make sure you read and understand any documents relating to the retainer and costs before you agree to employ the lawyer.

Communicating with your lawyer

Communication is one of the key aspects to a successful working relationship between you and your lawyer. It is important that your lawyer has all the information which is relevant to your legal issue. The lawyer will probably ask particular questions about some aspects of your situation, but may not need to know other details.

Your lawyer will probably explain to you how the law views your situation and what they would advise you to do about it. Even if you believe there has been an injustice, it is important to understand that the law does not have a remedy for everything. Your lawyer cannot guarantee that you will get what you want.

It is important to ask questions of your lawyer if you don’t understand what they are saying to you. The law is full of jargon and even lawyers with the best intentions use specialised language, sometimes without realising it. Take notes so that you can do some research yourself. Write down clearly what you want your lawyer to do for you (this is called instructing your lawyer) and keep copies of all documents and correspondence.