Your initial contact with a personal injury law office is a two-way street. They will interview you about the facts and circumstances surrounding your accident and injuries so see if this is something they can and want to help you with.
At the same time, you will be interviewing them in order to decide if you have enough confidence in this attorney and/or his or her office that you want them to represent you.
The exact nature of the process varies dependent on the attorney and/or firm.
- When you first call in, many firms/offices do an initial screening, often by someone other than an attorney. They gather some basic facts of the accident, that parties involved, how it occurred, your injuries, available insurance coverage (be it auto insurance, commercial liability insurance, health insurance, etc). This initial contact serves several purposes. First, the firm is assessing whether the case has merit. Secondly, the firm uses this information to run a “conflict check,”, to ensure that the firm hasn’t already represented other parties to the same accident in prior cases or even the case at hand.
- Once the conflict is cleared, some firms will have a paralegal or intake rep take over to get more information and/or get you to sign a fee agreement. With some firms, you never meet or even speak to the attorney in this initial meeting. In those cases, the attorney will hopefully follow-up with phone call to at least introduce themselves, review your case, and hopefully set up a personal meeting for the very near future. In other firms, the attorney will conduct most, if not all, of the initial consultation/interview, explaining the fee agreement and process and answering any questions before asking you to sign a fee agreement. Personally, I explain the entire process, including potential problems or issues that may arise. This way, there are no surprises down the line. Also, an educated client is less likely to have unreasonable expectations as their case progresses.
- As far as you are concerned, ask enough questions to make sure the process is fully explained to you. Also ask enough about the attorney, his or her staff, and their policies to ensure that you made the right choice calling that attorney or firm. Remember, just because you call and even meet with an attorney or their staff, you are not obligated to sign with them. An attorney is like a doctor, some are better than others, while some have better bedside manners than others. You want to be comfortable with whom you retain, so do your homework.