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Nov 20 2014

7 Things To Bring To Your Lawyer

Part of what makes consultations so messy, is that people are relatively unprepared. The truth is that lawyers do a poor job of telling clients what they need to bring to a consultation. If you want work done quickly, efficiently, and error-free, you need to come to your consultation with certain items in hand.

Unlike other industries, law services are not a “set it and forget it” venture. Legal services are collaborative in nature. Working with a lawyer means that some of your time and energy will be spent helping to prepare the factual parts of your case so that your lawyer can best help you. Doing a little bit of legwork in the beginning will decrease frustration, delay, and cost. It will ultimately also translate into increased chances of a better outcome. As with all things, preparation is the mother of success.


1. Make a Timeline

One of the most important things that a client can do is write out a timeline of events for their case. Dates and times matter. Whether certain modifications to agreements are even valid, or whether the case is even viable can depend heavily on when they occurred.

Almost every case has a tight statute of limitation. A statute a limitation is a time during which a lawsuit can be brought. In California the statutes of limitations are as follows:

  • Personal injury: Two years from the injury. If the injury was not discovered right away, then it is 1 year from the date the injury was discovered.
  • Breach of a written contract:  Four years from the date the contract was broken.
  • Breach of an oral contract: Two years from the date the contract was broken.
  • Property damage: Three years from the date the damage occurred.
  • Claims against government agencies: You must file a claim with the agency within 6 months (for some cases, 1 year) of the incident. If the claim is denied, you can then file your lawsuit in court but there are strict limits to when, your lawyer will know the details.


2. Any Written Agreement or a Written Description of an Oral Agreement.

The next most important thing is to bring your paperwork. If your case revolves around a contract, your lawyer will need a copy of that contract. Under California law, the terms of the contract must be either placed in the complaint or the contract itself must be attached to the complaint as an exhibit. This applies to oral contracts as well as written contracts. This means that if you have an oral contract, you will need to write down a description of the terms for your lawyer to review.


3. Any Papers You have Exchanged with the Other Side.

Whether you are defending or suing, you’ve likely exchanged some paperwork with other side. Whether you’ve received a cease and desist letter or sent a demand letter, you need to bring any exchange of paperwork to your lawyer. This gives your lawyer a complete sense of where your case is at, and whether it can be resolved with pre-litigation negotiations. If there was a misunderstanding, your lawyer will be able to identify it right away.


4. Your Story – Preferably in writing.

Errors in communication happen all the time. Communication between lawyers and clients are no exception to this rule. The best way to make sure that you leave nothing out is to write it down. This will give you time to think and remember other facts that might otherwise have gotten left out in your oral recount.


5. A Copy of Your Financial Condition

The truth is that not all courses of action are equally good for all people. Whether or not you should engage in litigation will depend heavily on your financial condition. This will inform what you should accept as settlement as well as whether you should even engage in litigation.

Even on the cheap side, a lawsuit will cost 40-60 thousand dollars before trial. Many suits, like intellectual property suits, can cost 2 million and up. Lawsuits are expensive, and they’re often a tool of last resort. Let’s make sure that it’s the best thing for you before proceeding.


6. A Checkbook or Other Method of Payment

If you want to proceed immediately, you’ll have to sign a retainer agreement and pay the initial retainer. An initial retainer is usually around $5000, depending on the case. So you should expect to pay that into the lawyer’s trust account on the date of your consultation if you want any work done.


7. Your Insurance Policy.

If you’re a business, you likely have an insurance policy. It’s best to bring a copy of your insurance policy so that your lawyer can contact your insurer. Your insurer may cover you in the event that you are being sued.

Even if you’re the one suing, there may be potential counterclaims that will be covered by your insurance policy. Bring your insurance policy along with you. It may help you offload the cost of suit onto your insurer. You bought insurance, you might as well use it.


Last Thoughts.

Don’t wait until the last moment. If even think you have a suit, you need to see someone immediately. A delay in action can be fatal to a good outcome.