Your Initial Consultation
“It is unfair to believe everything we hear about lawyers; some of it might not be true.”
̶ Gerald Lieberman
An initial office consultation is the first and most important step toward the formation of an attorney-client relationship. It gives you the opportunity to interact with the professional who will be taking care of your legal problem and to explain your issues and concerns in a personal, confidential setting. Our attorneys provide an initial office consultation that typically lasts 1-2 hours, depending on the nature of your matter. The cost for your initial consultation will be based on the amount of time necessary and the experience of the attorney required to properly evaluate your particular matter. This is not a perfunctory, free 30-minute sales pitch. Instead, we will delve into the particular facts of your situation, the individuals and business organizations involved who may be parties to your transaction or lawsuit, and the potential problems that may arise, or have already arisen. We want to ensure that we are a good “fit” for your legal problem.
Choosing the Right Attorney for You
Attorneys aren’t fungible. Some negotiate, review, and prepare legal documents. Often broadly referred to as transactional attorneys, they draft the agreements and legal instruments necessary to form business organizations, to convey real estate, to purchase and sell assets, to “paper” loan transactions, to hire employees or contractors, and to commemorate the understanding between parties as to a wide variety of relationships and transactions. Others go to court. They draft pleadings, take depositions, gather evidence, appear in court, and present arguments to judges or juries to persuade them to resolve a dispute favorably for their clients.
Within these broad categories are dozens of practice areas. The Texas Board of Legal Specialization certifies attorneys in 24 different specialty areas, including family law and civil trial law. Martindale-Hubbell, the prestigious information services company for the legal profession, lists more than 350 individual areas of practice—from large areas like “real estate” and “wills & probate” to specific areas like “venture capital” and even “Uber accidents.” Every case and every transaction is, in many ways, unique. Often, you may need an attorney competent in multiple practice areas.
During your initial office consultation, you should discuss with the attorney the specific facts of your particular situation. We want to hear your problems and concerns so we can determine if we are the right choice for you. We want you to be comfortable working with us, and we want to be comfortable working with you to solve those problems and address your concerns. Sometimes, we will not be able to help you. Other times, we may refer you to one of our professional colleagues at another law firm who we think may be a better fit for you personally or for your particular matter. Likewise, you may decide that we are not the right choice for you.
Attorneys have relatively strict ethical requirements that limit what matters they can work on. Because of the confidential nature of attorney-client communications, attorneys often cannot accept matters that involve current clients, past clients, or close acquaintances of the attorney or other attorneys at the same law firm. To avoid violating these ethical rules, most attorneys perform a “conflict check” before formally accepting any new client.
During your initial office consultation, your attorney will likely ask you about the other parties to your transaction or lawsuit. It is important that you provide accurate and complete information concerning such other parties for a “conflicts check.” Remember that even if the attorney you meet does not know any of the other parties, we must also check to determine if other attorneys at our firm currently represent or previously represented such parties.
We are often asked to review documents from a potential new client before our initial office consultation. As a rule, we usually decline to do so. Until the consultation has been completed, a “conflicts check” has occurred, and an attorney employment agreement or engagement letter has been signed, we cannot formally represent you in your legal matter. Properly reviewing documents takes time and is part of the services attorneys typically charge for. If we determine that we do not have the right mix of competence and experience to help you or you decide that we are not the right choice for you, that time would be wasted. Without hearing your “story” first, it is difficult to ascertain which provisions of documents are important. Instead, an attorney may waste time focusing on language which has no bearing on your particular matter.
Sometimes, it is necessary to perform a preliminary review of certain key documents to determine if a matter falls within our areas of practice or if a conflict with another client exists. Even in such a situation, NEVER send any documents to us as email attachments before your initial consultation. Due to cybersecurity concerns, we will not open any such attachments. Instead, you should bring those key documents with you to your consultation. We will scan them for our purposes, and return the originals to you. In the rare situation where we conduct an initial consultation by telephone because you are located outside of the DFW area, you will need to mail, fax, or send such documents by delivery service to our firm in advance.
Retainers and Fee Agreements
If we determine that we can help you with your matter, and you decide that we are the right fit for you, we will discuss your budget for your legal matter. Transactions and lawsuits come in all sizes, from the purchase or lease of a small office building to complex construction litigation involving large projects with multiple parties. In most cases, our legal staff provides services for compensation based on the amount of time billed to your matter. Our attorneys typically charge $175-400 per hour, and our paraprofessionals charge $80-150 per hour. How much time will ultimately be required depends upon the nature and complexity of your legal matter and, often, how difficult or aggressive the other parties may be.
We often require clients to deposit a retainer, or advance fee, as a down payment for our services. Our fees and expenses are billed against this retainer, and you will be required to replenish your retainer monthly. A retainer is not an estimate of the total fees and expenses likely to be incurred in your matter. While we can help you determine an initial budget for your matter, that budget may need to be adjusted from time to time as new information is learned and new problems are encountered.
Flat Fees and Contingency Fees
Some services are available for a flat fee. For instance, the preparation of a simple will, deed, mechanic’s lien, release of lien, etc. are typically done on a flat fee basis. We do not currently provide any litigation services on a flat fee basis. We do, however, provide appellate representation on a flat fee basis in some instances.
We are often asked to accept litigation cases on a contingency fee basis. Personal injury lawsuits against fully insured defendants are routinely accepted by other law firms on a contingency fee basis, commonly 1/3 or 40% of any recovery. While some of our attorneys have past experience with such cases, we rarely accept plaintiff’s personal injury cases. As a general rule, we decline to take cases on a contingency fee unless we have represented a particular client for a long time and are familiar with its internal processes for screening the parties with which it does business.
Our firm’s office is located at 1603 LBJ Freeway, Suite 280, Dallas, Texas 75234. It is just west of I-35 at the northeast corner of I-635 and Luna Rd. From I-635, you should take the Luna Rd. exit and go north on Luna Rd. Turn right into our office complex at the first traffic signal north of I-635. The entrance to our visitor parking garage will be to your left. Our office complex contains four separate buildings. Building 1603 is the second from the entrance to the visitor parking garage. The number is stenciled on the elevator shaft. You can use the stairs or elevator to go to the ground floor and then walk across the covered walkway to the lobby of our building. Our office is on the second floor.
Be aware that some navigation systems will erroneously direct you to an area of I-635 near Skillman & Abrams if you enter our address with the city “Dallas” instead of the zip code “75234.” While our office is located in far northwest Dallas, we are surrounded on three sides by the City of Farmers Branch, which comprises the majority of our zip code.