First Meeting With Your Business Dispute Lawyer: What to Expect
You are caught up in a business dispute and will be meeting a lawyer for the first time to discuss the matter. What can you expect?
Your first meeting with a lawyer will largely be an exchange of information:
- From the lawyer’s perspective, the meeting is to help him/her understand your dispute in order to provide the necessary legal advice, and to decide whether to represent you moving forward.
- From your perspective, the meeting is to help you decide whether you want to engage the lawyer’s services.
This article explains what a lawyer would likely want to discuss during your first meeting with him/her. It provides tips on what matters you may wish to think about ahead of the meeting, and what information and documents you should bring to it.
Being well-prepared will ensure that your first meeting is a productive one.
Facts of the Dispute
The lawyer will generally start by asking how your business dispute arose, and what steps have been taken to resolve the dispute. Understanding what happened is necessary for the lawyer to assess and advise you on your case’s likelihood of success.
You should always be honest with the lawyer and tell him/her all sides of the story (even if this is not favourable to you). This is so he/she can make the most accurate assessment possible.
It will be helpful to the lawyer if you prepare the following documents and bring them to the meeting. You should bring copies of these documents which you can leave with the lawyer.
- Timeline of key events.
- All relevant documents to the dispute, such as contracts, correspondence with other persons involved in the dispute, invoices / receipts, financial documents, court papers and letters of demand. If possible, arrange the documents chronologically and/or according to the type of document.
- List of potential witnesses, and a brief summary of what they are likely to say if asked to testify.
Options for Resolving the Dispute
After understanding the facts of your dispute, the lawyer will want to discuss the possible options to resolve it.
You should come prepared to discuss the following matters with the lawyer, to allow him/her to advise on the best course of action for you:
- Your desired outcome and considerations in resolving the dispute. For example, you may wish to resolve the dispute at minimal cost, in a way which protects your business reputation and/or which preserves your business relationship with other persons involved in the dispute.
- Your preference as to the mode of resolving the dispute. For example, through private settlement, mediation, litigation (i.e. court process) or arbitration.
Cost of Resolving the Dispute
The lawyer will want to discuss the likely costs of resolving your dispute, including his/her fee arrangement.
Understanding the likely legal costs will help you assess what are the best options to resolve your dispute, or if it is cost-effective to pursue your case at all. The lawyer will likely explain that even if you emerge as the winner in the dispute, you may not recover the full legal costs from the losing party.
Understanding the lawyer’s fee arrangement will also help you decide whether to engage his/her services, or to approach another lawyer.
You can expect the lawyer to discuss the following matters with you:
- How much you are willing and able to bear in terms of legal costs. For example, whether you have a budget.
- Preferred fee arrangement. For example, charging by the lawyer’s hourly rate (with or without a cap), or charging a fixed fee regardless of amount of work done by the lawyer.
- When the lawyer’s fees are to be paid. For example, whether a retainer fee is required, or whether the lawyer’s fees can be paid by instalment.
Lawyer’s Qualifications and Experience
You may want to use the first meeting to ask the lawyer for more details on his/her qualifications and experience, if such information cannot already be found on the website of his/her law firm.
For example, you may want to ask how many years the lawyer has been practising, or whether the lawyer has had experience dealing with disputes similar to yours.
If you decide to engage the lawyer, he/she will want to discuss the next steps to be taken after the first meeting. This may include:
- Arranging for you to sign a letter of engagement
- Asking you to gather more information or documents which are relevant to the dispute
- Asking you to await his/her legal advice, draft court papers etc.
- Discussing your expectations in the lawyer’s management of your dispute, moving forward. For example:
- Who will be the point of contact on your and your lawyer’s side.
- How often you wish to be updated on the progress of the matter.
- Whether you wish to receive copies of all correspondence and documents sent to your lawyer.
Please note that this article only serves as a guide. The discussion at your first meeting with your business dispute lawyer may vary from lawyer to lawyer, and from law firm to law firm.
Don’t already have a lawyer for your business dispute? Feel free to get in touch with one of our business dispute lawyers.
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