Our firm regularly helps guide SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon’s clients as a part of their Simple Steps to Starting a Business workshop series. Last week was my turn participating in a panel discussion alongside a community lender, an accountant, an independent insurance broker, and a SCORE mentor. One of the key topics addressed by the panel was how to get the most out of a meeting with a professional for the first time.
The consensus of the panel’s recommendations was to be prepared. As an Eagle Scout, this was music to my ears, because “Be Prepared” is the Scout Motto. Regardless of whether you’ve completed 21 merit badges, “Be Prepared” is just a good concept to live by, and if you follow it, you’ll make the most out of your meeting or initial consultation with a lawyer.
Here’s how you can “be prepared” for your first meeting with an attorney:
Think about your goals
Having a clear understanding of your goals will help the attorney determine the best way to help the situation. What is the problem you are trying to solve? What is your ideal outcome? The attorney will likely present you with a number of options, and thinking about what you want to achieve will help your attorney make better recommendations.
Do background research
The internet is a wonderful tool if you understand its limitations – consider using it to do some background research on your issue before meeting with an attorney. This will help you focus the discussion and will help you organize your thoughts and questions (see below).
For example, if you need help drafting a contract, go online and review a few examples. See something that is confusing or that you would want to handle the same way? Make a note of it so you can talk with your attorney about that paragraph. And do not be afraid to bring a copy of what you read online to show your attorney!
Organize your thoughts and questions
Consider preparing an outline of what you want to discuss, relevant facts, and questions that you want answered during (or after) the meeting. For example, if you’re meeting about a conflict, it would be helpful to include a timeline of the significant events related to the conflict, which would be helpful to illustrate how the situation has developed.
Bring relevant documents
You should bring any documents that may be relevant to the issue. Have you received a notice from a government agency or a demand letter? Bring the notice or the letter. Do you have contracts, invoices, photos, text messages, emails, or other documents that might be helpful in evaluating the issue? Bring ‘em. If you aren’t sure what to bring, don’t hesitate to contact the attorney in advance of the meeting and ask.
Working through as many of these ideas as you can will help you, and your lawyer, get your relationship off on the right foot. And don’t be afraid if you cannot answer them all during the first meeting. After all, in many cases your lawyer may not be able to answer your questions without doing some additional research first. But at the end of the day, thinking about these items will greatly improve that first meeting.