Finding a legal professional to handle your private and sometimes emotional matters can be a daunting task. It seems that at a time when we most need a lawyer, we are least likely to be in the frame of mind to seek one. So how should you sort through the mix of recommendations and names that come your way when the situation arises and you need to decide on legal representation for one reason or another?
Research. Research. Research. Is the attorney you are considering in good standing with the state bar in the state in which you need representation? Has he been sanctioned or reprimanded for ethical or other violations? This information is usually a public record at your state’s professional responsibility board or state bar website. Is he or she involved in any legal issues of his or her own that may affect or complicate her ability to represent you? Sometimes simply Googling the individual will reveal more than you know.
References. Talk to past and/or current clients of the potential attorney to determine if they have had a good experience. Does the individual return the call promptly? Is the lawyer someone they would use again? Did you feel that the fees charged by the lawyer were proportional to the services provided? If applicable, was the result favourable?
Cost. What and how does the lawyer charge fees? One of the most important considerations when deciding on an attorney is the cost of the attorney’s services. Attorney fees can be very expensive and can add up quickly in lengthy and complex legal matters. Depending on your type of legal issue, an attorney may charge a flat fee, an up-front retainer fee from which future billing is drawn, a flat hourly rate, or a contingency fee which is when the attorney is paid. a percentage of what you recover from your case. With a contingency fee, if you do not recover anything, the attorney does not receive a fee. Keep in mind that even if you don’t recover, you would still be responsible for costs other than attorney fees, such as court costs or other costs associated with your legal problem.
Expertise. Does the attorney you’re considering focus his practice on the area of law he’s looking for? Lawyers may advertise that they work in certain areas of the law, but they may not have worked on many cases in that specific area of the law. For example, if you are considering hiring an attorney to handle a car accident case for you, ask how many other car accident cases they have handled. Ask how many of those cases were decided in favor of the attorney’s client. You may know of an attorney who has been in practice for decades who advertises that he or she works on will and probate matters as well as personal injury. But find out how many wills they’ve drawn up. Do you just dabble in that area from time to time, or is it a real area of your practice? Most attorneys have a couple of areas that they focus their practice on. They may, from time to time, handle a legal matter outside of those areas. So make sure you get someone who knows the area of the law and is up to date with the most current laws.
appeals. If you are looking for a lawyer for any legal matter involving a court proceeding, there is always the possibility of an appeal. Find out about the likelihood of appeal in your particular matter. Ask if this attorney handles appeals like not all attorneys do. If the attorney handles appeals, ask about the different costs associated with an appeal. Ask about the timeline for an appeal. If you are looking for an attorney to handle a legal matter that could potentially be raised on appeal, it is better to have that same person work the case from start to finish than to have a new attorney take over in the middle. These initial considerations will save you time, money, and frustration later on.
When you choose an attorney, you are making an investment, not just financial, but also an investment of your time. You must be well informed and use all available resources when making this important decision.