I read this excellent blog post last night from Alison Rowe, an equine lawyer in Texas, titled “How To Cold-Call An Attorney.” She did a great job covering preparation, expectation, listening and timing. I especially liked Alison’s advice on explaining your problem to your attorney in four sentences or less and contacting an attorney well before the court appearance.
A few additional thoughts on cold-calls to attorneys (and Rincker Law, PLLC):
1) Setting up an appointment is always the best way to go. Attorneys are typically busy people (myself included). We might be out-of-the-office at a court appearance, a real estate closing, an educational conference, or a meeting. Or perhaps we are trying to meet a deadline for a client. I take cold-calls from potential clients everyday; however, I am not always available to speak in-depth about an issue due to other professional obligations. When you “cold-call” an attorney, be prepared that the attorney might ask you for times and dates that you are available to speak via telephone or in-person. I welcome cold calls (and Skype video conferences) from potential clients but I prefer setting up appointments via email so I can more quickly respond if I am in court. Please indicate whether your matter is a true emergency. Furthermore, don’t assume that all attorneys are only available from 9-5 M-F. Some attorneys, like myself, are available for consultations on evenings (before 9pm) and weekends (before 6pm). If it is more convenient for you, ask if the attorney is available at these times. Additionally, some attorneys (like myself) are willing to travel if necessary but this must be coordinated ahead of time.
2) Don’t assume that attorneys give free consultations. Some attorneys do give free consultations while others do not. Some attorneys might give a free consultation for a certain number of minutes and then will bill at their typical hourly rate. Attorneys sell their time and expertise so be sure to ask up front if there is a consultation fee. Rincker Law, PLLC does charge for consultations but it will typically be for free if later retained (i.e., clients are later credited back the consultation fee). Also, be sure to ask if the attorney gives discounts on consultations for professional memberships. For example, Rincker Law, PLLC does give a 10% discount for membership to a myriad of agriculture commodity groups including, but not limited to, American Farm Bureau Federation (“AFBF”) and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (“NCBA”).
3) There’s no such thing as “one quick question.” Every week I get phone calls from potential clients that just need “one quick question” answered and hope to get the information they need by cold-calling an attorney. An attorney cannot accurately answer any question without fully understanding all of the facts. An attorney’s malpractice insurance may also prohibit an attorney giving legal advice to someone without a written engagement letter and the creation of attorney client-privilege. Be prepared that the attorney may want to schedule a consultation to answer that “one quick question” (and the other “quick questions” that normally stem from the answer…).
4) Fully disclose opposing parties. It is important to have full candor to attorneys that you cold-call. An attorney cannot speak to you about your matter if he/she has a conflict of interest (unless that conflict is waived in writing). You need to be prepared to identify all opposing parties in your matter to the attorney that you are calling.
5) Organize your file. After speaking to a potential client on the phone, I will typically ask people to fax/mail/email me all the relevant documents including copies of court pleadings. I will also ask potential clients to send me a timeline of relevant facts. However, I think it is a good exercise for people to organize this information before contacting the attorney to help crystalize the facts and legal issues.
"This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction before relying on the information in this blog."