When faced with a legal issue, one of the most intimidating tasks is the process of seeking legal help.
Consider this example: an employer announces that they can no longer afford your services, and are forced to lay you off. More importantly, because of hard economic circumstances, they would not be able to provide a severance package.
As hard as it is, the only choice for you as an employee is to comply. The two questions you should be asking, are:
- Am I entitled to a severance package?
- Should I hire a lawyer to help me in this case?
Unfortunately, lawyers aren't very affordable. Many will charge $250/hr–$500/hr, whether or not they are able to help.
So, before you decide to hire a lawyer to explore legal options, it may be worthwhile to ask that lawyer if you have a shot at winning the case.
This is where free consultation with a lawyer may come in handy.
Many lawyers offer a complimentary 15–30 minute consultation to prospective clients, to answer any questions and build rapport. Consultations usually take place over the phone, and might need to be scheduled ahead of the time, given lawyers' hectic schedules.
Below are some of the tips on how to get the most out of a free consultation with the lawyer
1. Determine the purpose of the call
It's always a good idea to have a specific goal in mind, when it comes to free legal consultation.
When reaching out to lawyers, it's tempting to ask all kinds of questions that come to mind. But the clock is ticking. Instead, focus your questions around the main purpose of the call.
Some prospects use a free call to understand if the lawyer is the right fit to represent them. Others might want to assess the severity of their issue. It's also very common for people to call to ask for direction - so they can take matters into their own hands, without hiring a lawyer.
In the case of being laid off without severance, free consultation might help to understand if your unique circumstances warrant a lawyer's intervention.
2. Have all the facts and timelines ready
The answer to your question will be just as good as the information provided. Lawyers are trained to provide a recommendation by applying different laws to a situation at hand.
Thus it's recommended to prepare and share all the facts and timelines ahead of the call, to help inform the conversation with the lawyer.
This approach will help reduce the legal bill as well, if you choose to hire a lawyer in the future.
3. Be transparent
Lawyers are like doctors - they will not be able to provide helpful recommendations, if they don't have a full picture of what occurred to their clients.
While it might be tempting to omit certain details, either too personal or too embarrassing to share, it is absolutely necessary if solving the case is a priority.
For example, an employee might paint a picture of being laid off for no reason. However, if it later turns out that the employee was stealing or had an affair with their boss - the lawyer's advice will no longer apply.
4. Find out the next steps
Whether or not you're planning on hiring a lawyer, it is a good idea to ask about the next steps. Certain issues might be more complex than others, involving complex paperwork, interviewing witnesses, and attending court hearings.
Asking a lawyer for their opinion about the next steps would help you understand if it's advisable to pursue legal action at all, or if taking legal action would only lead to loss of valuable time and money.
5. Ask how much it would cost
Another way to identify if it's worth pursuing legal action, is by asking a lawyer how much it would cost.
Taking legal action usually involves hiring a lawyer on a retainer (unless you're planning to represent yourself), paying that lawyer for their representation, and sometimes covering mandatory government fees, such as the cost of filing a patent or submitting an immigration application.
In case you choose to hire a lawyer, knowing fees up-front would help set a clear budget and alleviate any negative surprises in the future.