I've seen quite a few discussions on non-disclosure agreements, but not really for when you are approaching a potential lawyer to work with. Yet, I was advised by a friend to bring a NDA, the first time I meet the lawyer to discuss our eventual future work together.
I was slightly surprised since I thought there's attorney-client confidentiality, but, I guess I won't really be a client yet , so here are my questions:
1) Do I really need a NDA for that first meeting? And if yes, what about the next ones -- at what point does the attorney-client confidentiality begins?
2) How much of the startup idea is it safe to discuss during a first meeting?
A bit of additional info: at this point, I'll need the lawyer mostly to make sure I've properly filled out documents and checking my TOS. Nothing "major". And, in case it matters, the plan is to launch the initial version of the service in January.
If you are consulting an attorney about possibly hiring that attorney, then the attorney-client privilege starts immediately and the attorney is obligated to keep everything in confidence. You don't need an NDA and many attorneys would refuse to sign one.
In terms of what you need to disclose, disclose everything the attorney needs to know to do the work for you but no more. You never know what could happen: the attorney could be a scoundrel, a hacker could hack his computer systems, his secretary's spouse may work for your competitor, etc.
There is no reason for a lawyer to sign an NDA in the situation you have described. You should feel free to discuss your ideas in as much detail as you believe will be helpful.
So long as you are consulting the attorney, in confidence, in his or her professional capacity to retain the attorney or to obtain legal services or advice, the attorney is obligated to maintain information that you provide in confidence - and that confidentiality obligation is much stronger than the confidentiality obligations in the typical NDA.
For more on this topic, please see "Why Your Lawyer Need Not Sign an NDA ".
Disclaimer: This information does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.
Dana Shultz is 100% correct- I'm a lawyer as well.
Ignore this friend- terrible advice, and the potential lawyer might think you are going to be an extremely difficult and odd client if you ask him/her to sign an NDA.