Finding a lawyer: The first thing NOT to do

My own lawyer asked that I give you this piece of advice here on Sidebar:

When you call a lawyer for the first time, do not ask her for legal advice on the telephone.

Presumably you’re calling because you’re worried, you think you have a legal problem, maybe a lawsuit. The lawyer you’re calling probably doesn’t know anything about you and can’t evaluate your situation during a telephone call.

And won’t give you legal advice during that first-time call. What she might do is listen to you. And she might ask some questions, if she’s hearing something about your situation that might fit into her specialty.

She might. Or she might not.

But she will never give you advice. How could she? She doesn’t know enough about your situation — and is unlikely to be getting a full picture on a short telephone call.

The first legal advice she is likely to give you is: make an appointment. For which she will probably charge you a fee, yes.

(I was once asked by a woman acquaintance if I could recommend a lawyer who could help her. Her landlord was trying to evict her from a rent-controlled apartment [for good reason, as it happened]. The woman was a sort of elderly flower-child kind of person. Or, rather, she liked to present herself as a dithery flower child. And she was certainly elderly.

I told her I did know a really good lawyer. “Would I have to pay him?” she asked in her wispy, helpless, pitiful little voice.

“Of course,” I snapped. “What do you think, lawyers are supposed to practice law for nothing?”)

The primary reason a lawyer will require a face-to-face meeting is to evaluate you and your situation, do some legal research and decide whether you have a case and whether she wants to take it.

She will not tell you over the phone that yes, you have a case. She will not tell you over the phone what you should do about your case.

So don’t ask. She won’t tell.

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