HELP! I need to call a lawyer.

5 Things You Need to Know Before Contacting an Attorney 

  1. Understand Your Deadlines & Call as Soon as You Have Them 
  • If you only need to respond with your intent to appeal, do so as soon as possible to start the process. For K12 items, this can generally be done via email to your child’s school principal’s office. You can have an attorney do this for you should you consult and retain them within the deadline to submit your intent to appeal. 
  • If you have a hearing scheduled or need to submit an appeal, contact a lawyer several days in advance of this deadline, if not at least a whole week prior. 
  • If you have an interview or investigation meeting, follow the same advice as if this was a hearing or appeal submission and contact a lawyer ASAP. 
  • Documentation – Keep it Handy, But Share What is Requested 
  • It is always helpful to keep all communications with your employer, school, university, an adverse party, etc., safe and secure. Attorneys will often request specific documents, i.e., IEPs, suspension notices, and ODE letters, so do have those ready to send.  
  • As far as other communication goes, you can send these items to the firm you are contacting after scheduling a consult, though keep in mind that attorneys often will not have time to read each article in its entirety. 
  1. Have a General Understanding of Your Goals for Contacting an Attorney 
  • In many cases, your objective to remedy your situation is clear, getting your child re-enrolled in school, appealing a court decision, getting assistance through a hearing, etc. However, you may feel a more general sense that an injustice has occurred, and you would like to see action taken. In either situation, it is best to gather a sense of your goals as a client to effectively communicate to an attorney’s office what type of assistance you need. Even a brief list of goals will be enough to have a successful initial consultation. 
  1. The First Person You Talk to at Their Office is Likely Not an Attorney (and They Did Not Do the Bad Thing to You) 
  • This person, often an office administrator or intake coordinator, is here to answer questions about the firm you are contacting and create your file as a client. They will typically need to walk through a list of questions for their intake process and will likely have information to share with you about what that process entails.  
  1. Please keep in mind that they are the liaison between you and the attorney. They cannot control your case’s outcome, answer any legal questions, or provide a remedy for the situation outside of getting you in touch with an attorney. 
  2. Retainers, Flat Fees, Contingency Defined 
  • While many attorneys operate on a retainer fee structure, the most well-known payment structure is often referred to on billboards and commercials as “you don’t pay unless we win.” To distinguish the former from the latter, here are some general definitions of typical payment structures that lawyers utilize: 
  • Retainers – A fee that the client pays upfront to an attorney to commence representation, which is held in trust until the attorney works on/earns the fee. With each piece of work that the attorney does, that balance will deplete. 
  • Flat Fees – A fee paid upfront to cover all work that the attorney will perform. This is a fixed amount and is generally non-refundable. 
  • Contingency – The lawyer or firm only receives compensation if they successfully represent the client. Commonly known as “pay if we win.” 
  • * Please Note: The Concept of “Wins” *
  • Many people seeking an attorney will want to know, “what is your firm’s ‘win-rate’ or ‘record?'” Frankly, that metric is not typically logged or measured as it is difficult to assess what a “win” is, given how different each client’s goals usually are. Thus, keep in mind that many offices will not have a straightforward response for this as there is not a straightforward answer in many cases. 

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