Having your first consultation with a solicitor can be nerve-wracking, but these tips will hopefully help you prepare and feel more confident about the first meeting.

1 – Be prepared - it is advisable to prepare a brief chronology of your case so that your solicitor can read this to gain a better understanding of your situation. This is just a short summary of the fact, including who is involved, the date the dispute started, the type of dispute, the key events and the status of your dispute. Take any previous correspondence and relevant documents with you, such as letters or emails from the other side or their solicitor, contracts, financial documents, accident or police reports, etc. If your consultation is to be over the phone, you can scan and email these to your solicitor before the consultation. Being prepared before the meeting means your solicitor will be in a better position to advise you.

2 – If you are having an initial phone consultation, make sure you are in a private, quiet area so there is no background noise or disruptions. This will also allow you to speak freely with your solicitor without worrying about being overheard by colleagues or others. If the meeting is at the solicitor’s office, you will be in a private room, so you won’t need to worry about being overheard.

3 – Write down any questions you want to ask or points you wish to raise. Writing these down in advance means you will not forget to ask important questions and can help keep you focused on getting what you need from that first meeting. For example, you may wish to consider asking:

  • How much will it cost to deal with your case?
  • How long will it take to complete the case?
  • Are there any time limits you should be aware of?
  • What happens next?
  • How likely is your case to succeed?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • Can you do anything to help your case?
  • What factors may affect your situation and any future legal case?
  • How is the other side likely to respond?

4 – Take a notepad with you and take notes during the meeting. If someone is accompanying you, she or he could take the notes for you, leaving you free to focus on the questions you need to ask.

5 – Take a trusted friend or family member with you or have the call on loudspeaker so they can listen in. Make sure you let the solicitor know before the consultation starts that someone will be attending or listening in. It can be helpful to have someone else there to provide you with moral support and to discuss the meeting with afterwards. Often having someone with you at the meeting who can provide an additional pair of ears to listen to the solicitor's advice is very useful.

6 – Be honest and give a truthful description of the situation, even if some of the facts may be personal or embarrassing. Your solicitor is there to help you and cannot advise you properly on half-truths. The meeting, and any information you give the solicitor, is strictly confidential and cannot be discussed with others without your consent.

7 – Most solicitors use plain English, but if there is something you don’t understand, whether it is a legal term or bit of jargon, don’t be shy about asking the solicitor to explain it to you. The Oratto Wiki pages have a number of very useful glossaries that explain some of the most commonly used terms in plain English.

8 – It would also be useful to take evidence of your identity too if you think you may instruct the solicitor to act for you. The solicitor will require two forms of identity. One should be photographic, such as a passport or driving license, and one should provide details of your address, such as a utility or council tax bill.

9 – After the consultation, you should have a clear idea of what action is required and what your next steps should be. You could ask the solicitor to email these to you so they are set out clearly and concisely and you know exactly what needs to be done by either yourself or the solicitor. If, as the meeting draws to a close, you feel unsure about what the course of action should be, ask the solicitor to explain that to you. You do not want to leave the meeting feeling more confused than when you went in.

10 – After the meeting, you should have a good idea whether that particular solicitor is the one best able to represent you and will achieve the best possible outcome for you. If you have any reservations or nagging doubts, then it is best to consult with another solicitor. It is important that you have complete faith and trust in whichever solicitor represents you – otherwise, the relationship between you and them will be unworkable.