It is always important to know what the charges will be when meeting with an attorney who gives an initial evaluation to your case matters. If it is not stated on the website then it is one of the first questions you ask when you make contact by phone with that law firm. Expect that the law firm will want to know your name and a phone contact in the very first minutes of your call. The law firm must check your name on their list of conflicts. Therefore, they will want to know the name of your employer to also check for conflicts before going any further in learning about your matter. This information is considered confidential to the attorney even at this stage.
The person who speaks with you will ask you about your matter to determine if that law firm and the attorney you are seeking out handle such matters such as discrimination, wage claims, leave matters, or worker’s compensation matters. Many attorneys who handle employment law matters do not handle worker’s compensation matters as they are very different in their nature. One focuses on an employer-employee relationship, the other focuses on an injury in the workplace. After your short description of your employment matter the person you talk to may set an appointment for you to come in and discuss the matter. The next requirement you should expect is that you will be asked to bring in pertinent documents for the attorney to review. The most common ones are a chronology of events leading up to the matter you want to discuss. By preparing a chronology in writing in advance it will save time at the initial consultation and make it more efficient and less costly. A copy of your employee handbook is often an important document to review. Past performance appraisals, letters relating to a termination, if that is the issue, pay stubs, and different benefit plans offered by the company are the other most common documents to bring in. An attorney should not be asking you to bring in anything that you did not have a right to have from your employer.
Prior to the initial consultation you should know the definite time and place that you’re meeting with the attorney. You should know what you have been asked to bring to the consultation. On the other hand you should have told the law firm what matters you want to discuss and specifically what type of action you are looking for the attorney to advise you on.
At the consultation you are likely to be asked to relate the background information similar to your chronology and to state what type of advice you are looking for. An employment attorney usually can tell you whether or not you may have rights relating to your issues under the applicable law. The laws are complex and include both state laws and federal laws which differ. The attorney ought to tell you whether or not there are any short or immediate time limits by which you must abide in order to preserve a potential claim. Often, however, an investigation of your matter is necessary before an attorney can evaluate your potential rights and potential claims. Most attorneys will tell you options of things you may be able to do immediately. Every situation with different circumstances has different options that go along with it. It is very important that you listen carefully to what the attorney tells you and that you ask questions if you are not clear of the advice.
Usually after an initial consultation it will be determined whether or not you will continue to have that attorney represent you. Then it is most important that you know what the fee arrangement is going forward. It is very common that in the area of employment law attorneys will ask for a retainer to begin investigating your matter so they can advise you of their analysis of your case.
Clients can read up about their issues on the Internet in advance of visiting with attorneys, however, that advice may be very general and may not apply to a client’s case at all. It doesn't hurt to do a little research, but it is most important that you listen to the advice of the attorney who considers your specific matter and give it priority over general information seen on the Internet.
In summary, know what the terms of your appointment are with an attorney before you arrive, and bring the documents you are requested to bring. Listen carefully as the attorney tells you some initial advice on your matter, and whether or not additional time will be needed to evaluate your case. When you leave the consultation you should know exactly what your options are to move forward and whether or not you are entering into a an attorney-client representation with the attorney with whom you met.
By Robert Truhlar