What Can I Expect From My First Meeting With a Lawyer?
The article What Can I Expect From My First Meeting With a Lawyer? is written by Ophelia Hollway, Senior Associate, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers.
Ophelia is currently based at our Melbourne office. She regularly represents clients at Magistrates’ Courts as well as other metropolitan and regional courts of Victoria.
Since becoming a lawyer, Ophelia has worked exclusively on matters related to crime and family violence. She previously worked for Melinda Walker Criminal Law and Victoria Legal Aid handling state and Commonwealth cases, as well as volunteered overseas to assist in the preparation of capital defense cases.
I’ve received a calendar invitation for a conference with my lawyer.
I’ve never been in this situation.
What can I expect and what should I prepare?
Initial Conference – Learning About Your Rights and Understanding the Process
The first meeting you have with your lawyer either takes place before or after you are charged by police depending upon the point at which you decide to engage a legal representative.
The earlier in the process you meet with a lawyer who specialises in criminal defence work, the better as there is sometimes preparatory work your lawyer can undertake to avoid charges being laid altogether. Being aware of your rights prior to police contact means that you are not put in the position of having to obtain urgent legal advice over the phone at the police station.
It is incredibly stressful facing allegations without proper advice due to the uncertainty around your legal rights, the police investigation and court process. Having some understanding as to the way in which your situation will unfold will make a significant difference in managing your mental state over the course of your matter.
Role of a Defence Lawyer
It can be a daunting experience attending upon a criminal defence firm for the first time as you may feel as though everyone, including your lawyer, assumes you’re guilty of what has been alleged against you. This of course is not the case. We, as defence lawyers, relish the opportunity to fight for our clients and have built a reputation at Doogue + George of providing comprehensive advice around the process involved in defending allegations. As defence lawyers, we see legal analysis as an intellectual exercise and are adept at identifying alternative explanations for what might be, on face value, a straightforward narrative prepared by police.
Preparing for the First Conference – Which Questions Do You Need Answered? What Documentation Should You Bring Along?
It is perfectly normal to feel apprehensive about your initial conference with a lawyer. Being emotionally prepared helps in getting the most from the first meeting and sets the tone for the relationship with your lawyer moving forward. An initial conference provides an opportunity to have your preliminary questions answered and for your lawyer to explain the road map for the remainder of your case.
In order to get the most from your first conference, it is helpful to prepare a list of pressing questions you would like answered as well as gathering any documentation that is relevant to your case. Of course, you may well have no idea as to what is relevant so bringing along what you have in your possession will allow your lawyer to sift through the paperwork and identify what is useful. The materials assist your lawyer in gaining an understanding of the background to the matter and enable greater specificity in the advice provided.
Examples of important documents include:
- Brief of evidence
- Charge sheets
- Bail paperwork
- Intervention orders
- Medical material
It may be the case that your lawyer requires time outside the conference in which to review the documentation you have supplied. This enables the lawyer to carefully analyse the materials and consider various legal issues that may apply in your case. Follow-up conferences are then arranged to discuss case strategy and general preparation.
What Information Should I Provide?
Generally speaking, your lawyer will direct the conversation during the conference in order to elicit information that assists in the preparation of your case. In this way, your lawyer acts as the air traffic controller by managing the flow of information. Much like air traffic controllers, experienced defence lawyers are confident and skilled communicators who are proficient at getting to the central issues in any case. Working under pressure means lawyers can juggle a wealth of information simultaneously and hone in on what is helpful in your particular case. After all, no case is the same so exploring various defences takes time and expertise.
Referrals for Mental Health or Drug and Alcohol Treatment
Depending upon the type of matter, your lawyer will often provide a list of referrals at the initial conference for you to follow-up on in your own time. This ensures that you receive assistance from the outset with any mental health or drug and alcohol issues identified by your lawyer. Being forthcoming about any difficulties you are facing is therefore vital in ensuring your lawyer knows what to recommend in the way of treatment.
Referrals to Partner Firms for Advice Regarding Family Law or Immigration Matters
Your lawyer may also identify at the first meeting that you require assistance with family law, immigration or other legal matters in addition to your criminal matter. There is frequently overlap between various practice areas that means any criminal matter may impact you in other ways. Referring you to other lawyers who are highly-regarded in particular areas of law ensures that you are able to best manage any consequences flowing from the criminal case.
At Doogue + George, we have established relationships with partner firms in different practice areas who have demonstrated over time that they are capable of looking after our clients to a very high standard in related matters.
Things to Remember
Don’t feel disappointed if you do not have all your questions answered at the initial conference. It is not intended to cover every piece of advice nor every possible outcome, rather is designed to explain the specifics of the criminal charges and their implications; and outline the court process and timelines that apply in your case; the objective being to give you greater clarity around what is to come for your situation into the future.
You should leave the initial conference feeling as though you are in safe hands. It is extremely important that you have faith in your lawyer as criminal matters are inherently serious and therefore have potential repercussions for your liberty and your employment. Your lawyer will be with you from beginning to end which, in practice, takes months to a number of years, depending upon the level of seriousness of the matter. Having a strong professional relationship with your lawyer is therefore crucial.
At Doogue + George, we arrange initial lawyer conferences of thirty minutes duration free of charge. So do not hesitate to contact us on (03) 9670 5111 if you require legal advice in relation to your case.
Date Published: 8 November 2023