Attorneys rarely see people at their best. Typically, there is a problem, be it a crime, injury, contract dispute, trouble dispersing a deceased loved one’s assets, etc, and talking to an attorney is seen as a “last resort” in order to solve the problem. Often, however, had the client come in when the problem was first discovered, much time, money, and stress could have been saved. This guide will explain when an attorney should be contacted and what to expect during an initial visit.
When An Attorney Should Be Consulted
When the potential for a problem is first discovered, an attorney can identify potential pitfalls to be avoided before they become bigger problems. The following are some common issues that arise and when one should contact an attorney:
Police often quickly arrest a person suspected of a crime because either the person is caught red-handed at the scene or, based upon witness statements the identity of the accused is apparent and police are able to find the person without much trouble. Under these circumstances, there may not be enough time to contact an attorney prior to being arrested. Other times, however, a more lengthy investigation is required and the person who is the target of the investigation has time to consult with an attorney. In this case, it is imperative that once a person believes he may be under investigation he contact an attorney. This is true for several reasons:
- Talking to police without an attorney present could make things worse:
Police will often tell a suspect that if he cooperates, the police will try to “help” him. While this may not technically be a lie, talking with police rarely works out well for the suspect. A suspect will often try to explain away what happened not knowing that instead, he is providing a statement that will be used against him in court.
- Arranging arrest
If a suspect is arrested without being prepared to post bond, it could be several days before bond money can be arranged. Furthermore, if a suspect is arrested on a Friday afternoon, or the day before a holiday, it may be a few days before bond is set and the suspect can post bond. If a suspect retains an attorney pre-arrest, however, the attorney can attempt to work with the police and the client in order for the client to collect bond money and turn himself in at the most convenient time. This helps to save time and stress, and can help to mentally prepare the client and the client’s loved ones for the arrest and initial court process.
- Peace of Mind
Finally, having an attorney retained prior to arrest gives the client piece of mind knowing that there is someone to advocate on his behalf as well be available to answer questions that arise.
The citizen accused may hire an attorney at any time. Often attorneys are not hired until the citizen has been arrested. If retained prior to bond being set, an attorney can be present during the bond hearing and argue for either a PR (personal recognizance) bond, in which the defendant is released without having to put up any money, or a lower bond amount. If the defendant has not yet posted bond, or the bond includes conditions such as no contact with a significant other or child, the attorney can go to court to modify the bond. Keep in mind, however, that it is in the client’s best interest to give the attorney plenty of time to get to know the client and the facts of the case before going to trial. For more information regarding when to hire an attorney for a criminal matter, see “Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney Now or Wait?” by John Berry.
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It is generally a good idea to contact an attorney as soon as a potential civil dispute arises, such as following an accident, as soon as it appears a couple may get divorced, or when a contract is disputed. Unlike in a criminal suit, there may not be anything an attorney can do until sometime in the future, but it is a good idea to have questions answered before it is too late. It is important not to wait too long because there could be a time limit, called a “statute of limitations” before which a lawsuit must be filed. For example, in Nebraska, according to Nebraska Revised Statute 25-222, the statute of limitations on a medical malpractice lawsuit is two years after the malpractice occurred. This means that a party injured during a negligently-performed procedure has to bring the suit within two years of when the negligent procedure was performed. If injury is not discovered until after two years, however, the statute of limitations is one year following discovery of the malpractice. This means that if the injury is not discovered until more than two years following the procedure, the lawsuit must be brought within one year of discovery of the injury.
Every civil dispute is unique and there are potentially many different laws that could affect a lawsuit. Thus, even if it is not the right time to file a lawsuit, it is a good idea to contact an attorney as soon as possible in order to avoid problems down the road. The attorneys at Berry Law are happy to answer any questions pertaining to a potential civil legal matter.
What to Expect During an Initial Consult
Many people are justifiably nervous when first meeting with an attorney. Not only is it likely they are facing serious legal issues, the process and legal language can be daunting, not to mention expensive. Thus, it is good to have an understanding of what will happen when first meeting with an attorney. When first arriving at the law firm, a visitor can expect:
- The visitor may be asked to fill out general paperwork, including contact information and a short description of the reason for the visit;
- The visitor will then be greeted by the attorney and led to an office or conference room for the consult
What to Bring When First Meeting an Attorney
- Any and all documentation regarding the legal matter, including any citations issued, notes regarding the circumstances, photos, etc. Even if it does not seem important, it may be, so bring everything;
- A list of questions the visitor would like answered;
- A method of payment, if the visitor believes he/she may hire the attorney that day. Cash, credit card, or a bank transfer are preferred but checks will also most likely be accepted.
- Keep in mind, there may be a charge for the initial consult depending on the firm policies.
The most important thing to remember about an initial consult is that when asked specific questions, be forthright and honest, even if it means divulging incriminating or embarrassing information. There are certain times when an attorney cannot or should not seek specific information and if that is the case, the attorney should let the visitor know before the visitor is to answer. Honesty is important because in order to figure out the best course of action, the attorney needs as much information as possible. For example, if a person comes in asking about potential criminal liability, it is important that the attorney know whether the person was present during the commission of the alleged crime when determining whether criminal charges are possible. Similarly, if the visitor was involved in a car accident, whether or not the visitor was checking text messages at the time of the accident may be crucial in deciding if a lawsuit should be filed.
Deciding when to speak with an attorney is a tough decision and the attorneys at Berry Law understand how nerve-wracking that first visit can be They approach every initial consultation with compassion and professionalism and give unbiased opinions, even if that means telling a visitor that her case is not something the firm is prepared to take on. For more information, call Berry Law at (402) 466-8444.