So, you have a legal problem or question and decided to get an attorney's advice, but you're not sure how to prepare for your first meeting. Knowing what to expect can help make your meeting more productive and efficient.
How to get the most out of your meeting
The quality of legal advice your lawyer can give you depends entirely on the amount and quality of information you provide. Get the most out of your meeting by following these tips.
- Come prepared. Bring all papers and documents related to your situation. If you aren't sure whether or not to bring something, bring it just in case.
- Be honest. Speak openly to your lawyer about your situation, and tell him or her everything you know. The only way you can get accurate legal advice is if you tell the full story to the best of your knowledge.
- Understand privileged communications. Any information you provide your attorney is private and privileged under law, and in accordance with professional guidelines and rules of conduct. Your lawyer can't disclose the contents of your meeting to anyone, unless you give specific permission to do so. However, there are a few exceptions to privileged communication; for instance, your lawyer may be professionally obligated to disclose previously privileged information if not doing so could cause harm to you or someone else.
- Expect advice and discussions only in person. For your privacy and protection, your attorney won't discuss cases or give advice over the phone or by email.
- Seek advice before you have a problem. It can sometimes be easier to prevent a legal problem before it happens than to solve an existing one, so don't hesitate to seek hypothetical legal advice.
- Understand that some legal services may not be available. Attorneys at the legal assistance office may not be able to help with your particular situation. Their services are intended to address personal, civil and consumer matters and some issues are outside the scope of legal assistance. However, a legal assistance attorney can refer you to civilian counsel to handle those matters.
- Be aware of potential costs. Although most services within a legal assistance office are provided free to service members, you'll have to pay any court or agency fees. You may also need private civilian counsel — if so, ask your legal assistance attorney if your case qualifies for pro bono representation under the American Bar Association's Legal Assistance for Military Personnel.
- Know your attorney. Your legal assistance attorney will either be a military judge advocate, or a civilian attorney authorized by the judge advocate general to provide legal assistance, such as advising clients on personal legal affairs.
Where to find legal assistance
- Legal assistance offices — These are located on almost every installation and ship. Use the Armed Forces Legal Services locator to search by branch of service, state or proximity to a ZIP code.
- MilitaryINSTALLATIONS — Go to the "Select a program or service" drop-down menu in the "Looking for a specific program or service?" box and click "Legal Services/JAG."