People meeting with an attorney for the first time often do not know what to expect, and they may feel nervous as a result. Below you will find our advice for people who have never met with an attorney about their situation before. Following these tips will maximize the productivity of your time with one of the attorneys at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC.

Relax! Your secrets are safe with us to the fullest extent allowed by law!

First, we want to assure you that our office is a safe environment where attorney-client confidentiality and privilege rules apply. What we discuss must stay in our office and is not discussed at our homes or even with the court unless you give us permission or an ethical law requires us to disclose it.
If you have questions about the limits of attorney-client privilege and confidentiality, we would be happy to explain it to you and how it would apply to your situation during an initial consultation with one of our attorneys.

Fill out and return your client questionnaire!

The attorneys at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC, can take time to prepare for your appointment if you complete any provided client information sheets and return them to the office well in advance of your appointment. Your time with one of the attorneys will be most productive if you fill the questionnaire out fully so we know what questions to ask you.

Do look through the information on our website.

The information we provide on our website is intended to answer some of the basic questions people commonly have when they come in for an initial consultation. It should NOT be construed as legal advice, because it does not account for the technicalities that may come into play for your particular situation.
It should, however, give you a feel for the basic vocabulary used in the area of law concerning your issues and provide you with an understanding of the progression of different types of court cases. The tips and information we provide on our website is FREE, so we don’t want you to pay for the time it would take for us to explain it to you!

Have a written list of questions to which you can refer!

We encourage you to write down a list of questions you have for our attorneys so you can refer to the list during your initial consultation. If your loved ones and anyone else you trust have specific questions, write those down in advance as well.

Just trust us on this one: you will not be able to concentrate on the wealth of information our attorneys offer during an initial consultation if you are thinking of your next question!

Bring in copies of all the documents you have that are relevant to your situation!

Those legal papers that mean nothing to you could mean everything to one of our attorneys. If you have received documents from the court or the other side of your case, please bring them in so the attorneys can review them during your appointment. Sometimes these papers can explain the cause of your angst better than you, the potential client, can!

Additionally, information like the court case number or the dates in which events happened are very useful for the attorneys during and after your initial consultation. We are always happy to see a simple, written timeline in list form of the events that have formed your reason for meeting with an attorney, because we know that you, the potential client, have already consulted with calendars and loved ones at home about the dates and times of relevant occurrences.

Be ready to take a few notes!

It can be difficult to remember what you discussed with an attorney days or even weeks later when the situation arises again. We encourage all potential clients to take a few notes on important discussion topics during their consultation so they have something to jog their memory later. Additionally, there may be follow-up information or documents we need you to obtain before we can take the next step, and it is always helpful to have those type of instructions written down.

However, we do not allow clients to take copious notes or record conversations with us in any way. This helps preserve the confidentiality of your conversations with the attorneys and staff members as well as making sure you are not so focused on taking notes that you cannot listen to our advice!

Expect your friends or family members to sit in the waiting area during your appointment.

We welcome input from your trusted loved ones, but typically only one of “you” can be our client, with whom our conversations would be protected under attorney-client confidentiality and privilege rules. When we allow anyone besides our office staff and the client to sit in on a meeting, even if they have factual information that would be useful to your case, what is said during the meeting is no longer confidential. If asked to testify about what was said during a conversation in a court of law, we would have to comply, and would not have attorney-client privilege as a defense with which we could remain silent before the court. The attorneys and staff of Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC take attorney-client confidentiality and privilege laws very seriously, because it protects you and your interests.

We recommend that you confer with your trusted loved ones before going in to the initial consultation so that you are able to get answers to their questions without destroying the confidential nature of your meeting. If you insist on having other people come into the meeting with you, we may have you sign a document stating that you understand you are voluntarily waiving your rights to confidentiality and the attorney-client privilege to memorialize your decision before we meet with everyone present.

The initial consultation may last more or less than one hour.

Although we schedule each initial consultation for one hour, your actual appointment may last more or less than one hour. It depends on the complexity of your situation and how much information you were able to have organized before your initial consultation with an attorney.
Either way, you will be charged at the initial consultation for only the time you spend with one or more of our attorneys. Thus, it is to your advantage to come fully prepared (by following the above tips, of course!) to discuss your situation.

What happens at the actual attorney-client initial consultation

At Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC, the attorney(s) meeting with you will take time to understand your situation, develop your legal claim(s), and determine with you what our strategy would be to resolve your case. We will take time to answer your questions, separate legal myths from legal facts, and otherwise ease your worries about the unknown. We will provide advice and explanations tailored to your situation that stem from our years of experience, education, and specialized training.
We promise to guide our clients with straight-talk and compassion. You may not hear what you expected, or what you want to hear, but we won’t hide the legal realities of your case from you.

And did we mention the coffee? We encourage all office visitors to enjoy the fresh coffee from our K-cup coffee machine, which we keep stocked with a wide variety of coffees for you to try. We also have tea and water for those who don’t need the extra caffeine, though!

To retain or not to retain, that is the question.

Meeting with an attorney in an initial consultation at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC, does not mean you are required to hire us to represent you. Indeed, hiring an attorney may not be appropriate for your situation—not everyone with thousands of dollars in debt needs a bankruptcy, and people frequently come in for an initial consultation with questions about divorce who have no intention of filling for one!

The decision is always yours to make at any point in time. However, you should expect the attorney(s) meeting with you to present to you a retainer amount and a retainer agreement near the end of your initial consultation. The attorney may suggest you investigate certain facts about your situation and return to us with more information at another appointment, at which time the attorney will be better able to determine what the retainer amount should be. This is especially true of people seeking a dissolution because the more that you and your spouse agree on in advance, the more likely it is that we can complete the dissolution quickly and easily.

Don’t expect to get a specific dollar amount for the total cost to resolve your situation.

At Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates, LLC, a retainer is meant to be an up-front, lump sum of money from which the attorneys and staff members will bill their time at their hourly rates. Your retainer money is kept in a separate client trust account and only transferred to our operating account when it is earned by our firm doing work on your case. We do not treat a retainer as money paid to the firm to “reserve our time” that puts you at the top of our to-do list, as it is in other law firms around the nation.

Additionally, the retainer amount is not to be confused with our estimation of the total cost of achieving a resolution to your situation. It is very likely that the retainer amount will not cover the total cost of your case. What we can tell you about the total cost of our representation is that frequently, and especially in family law cases, the total cost will depend on how irrational the opposing party is.

But, if your case costs less than the retainer amount, your unused money will be returned to you.