If you need to hire an attorney for legal services, it’s important you are sure you hire the right attorney to represent your case. Many lawyers will offer a free consultation which gives you an opportunity to determine whether they are the right attorney for you.
When preparing for your initial meeting, it’s advisable to prepare with some simple questions. While you shouldn’t expect to receive a lot of legal advice at this point, this is an opportunity to get their initial opinion on your case, listen to their perspective, and help you determine whether you would like to hire them. Keep in mind this consultation is not meant to resolve your legal questions.
Before you can schedule a consultation, you need to find a lawyer who may be a good fit. The first step is looking for an attorney who focuses their practice on your type of legal need. You can perform an online search, inquire with your local bar association, ask family and friends for a referral, or if you have used an attorney in the past for something else, ask them for a referral.
Once you have identified a lawyer you think you want to work with, one of the first things you should inquire about is their background. Ask them about their experience with this type of case, how many of this type of have they handled in the last year, how long they have been practicing in general, and how long they have practiced in your area.
While it may feel uncomfortable to ask them these questions, remember you are going to pay a lot of money to retain their services. It’s completely appropriate to learn about their experience and how confident they are representing you. You may also want to ask the average verdict the lawyer has obtained in your type of case.
Another important question to ask a lawyer is what legal strategies they would want to use for your case and what outcome they expect. You should also how long they believe it will take for the entire case to be resolved.
As they respond consider their answers and how comfortable you are with them. If you want to avoid trial, but the attorney thinks it’s the only solution, you may want to seek another opinion. It’s important that your lawyer’s strategy aligns with your needs.
Another vital aspect of choosing an attorney is understanding how the firm will handle your case. In some firms, it’s common for other attorneys to work on the case, so the people actually doing the work on your case might not be the person you initially met with.
Many attorneys also have paralegals or legal assistants who handle much of the paperwork and scheduling, so you should ask who the contact person will be will be for your case. Another important question to ask is how often you can expect to hear from the lawyer. How often will someone from the firm reach out to you with updates? You also should ask what information you need to supply to the attorney.
While you are visiting the office, try to get a sense as to whether this is a firm you want to work with. Are people friendly? Are they patient with you? Does it seem like your case is important to them? If you get the sense, they are irritated with you, impatient, or distracted, you might want to go someplace else.
Another important aspect to consider is the cost. Legal fees can be complex, so it’s important that you get details at your initial consultation. If different people will be working on your case (an attorney, paralegal, or legal assistant) they all bill at different rates, so you should find out what those are upfront.
Most attorneys will also ask for a retainer upfront. They will then bill you at an hourly rate against that money. You will owe whatever fees are not covered by the retainer. Ask how much of a retainer is required, what the estimated total fee is, how they will bill you and if there are payment plans or other options available to you.
It’s also important to ask about court fees which are charged in addition to the lawyer’s rates. You can also ask what you can do to keep your total bill down (for example, providing needed documentation for your case which can save a paralegal from having to search for it, or not calling for an update too often).
Finding the right lawyer for your case means you need to ask the right questions. Use this blog as a guide during your initial consultation.