New Lawyers Practice of Law

Better Send a Letter Before the First Consultation

A prospective client makes an appointment with you to discuss his or her case. Immediately send a letter setting out some information and a few key points.

First off, you’ll definitely want to confirm the date, time, and location of the consultation.

You also want to tell the prospective client that you won’t be formally representing him or her unless and until you both enter into a written representation agreement.

In addition to this basic information, there are a few other points you may want to cover in the letter when appropriate:

  • Needed documents. Tell the client which documents to bring to the consultation. For example: “Because your legal matter prospectively involves _ _[specify, e.g., an estate planning issue]_ _, please bring the following document(s) with you to the consultation: _ _[specify, e.g., the deed to your home]_ _.”
  • Confidentiality of matters discussed. Explain that anything discussed during the consultation will be held in confidence. For example: “Any information received during the consultation will be treated as confidential and will not be used or revealed by our office without your consent, except as provided by law and the California Rules of Professional Conduct.” You may include a provision for the prospective client to give consent to limited disclosure of confidential information obtained during the consultation.
  • Possibility of declined representation. State that you may not be able to represent the prospective client because of a conflict of interest or another reason, and that he or she isn’t required to be represented by you or your firm. For example: “Our office may be unable to represent you if your interests conflict with those of a client of this firm, of others to whom we also owe a responsibility, or of interests of a member of this firm. Please know that we may also choose to decline to represent you, or you may wish not to be represented by this firm.”
  • Representation of someone else in the matter. Notify the prospective client about the possibility of you representing another person about the same matter if no legal representation of the prospective client takes place. For example: “If our firm does not enter into a written agreement for legal representation with you, we may want to represent another person regarding the same or another matter. We do not wish to be precluded from doing so as a result of having received confidential information from you, and therefore ask for your consent to any such representation. If you do not provide that consent, we will be unable to receive any further information from you and it will be necessary to cancel the consultation. Our office will gladly explain further in advance of the consultation our reasons for requesting your consent if you decide to go forward with the consultation.”

Determine from the initial screening of the client what provisions to include in your letter—keep in mind that these admonitions and requests for consent may dissuade a prospective client from undertaking a consultation with your firm.

Get complete samples for this letter, as well as for all your client contacts throughout a case, in CEB’s California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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