No matter what your legal matter may be, it’s important that you choose the right lawyer to represent your case. This is something to be done after some research and not just after flicking through the phone book or a simple Google search. Not all lawyers are equal; different lawyers have different areas of expertise. You need to make sure you choose the right one with the help of these tips.
Be careful of too much word of mouth
It’s okay if you hire lawyers you hear good things about from friends and family. However don’t use it as your only criterion for choosing your lawyer. Your friend may have hired a lawyer who did justice to his personal injury lawyer who however will not be of much use if you are looking for a criminal defense attorney.
Check bar associations
Practically all states and cities have a bar association. So if you want to find out more about a lawyer you think you should hire, call up the association. Even if the chosen lawyer may not be the right person for the job, the association will surely know some attorneys who specialize in your required field. You can also check third-party websites which list out lawyer directories and also provide some client feedback you should read.
Narrow your list
Once you have collected a few prospective lawyers, find out if the lawyer has expertise in the area of law you require. Find out if the attorney participates in any online chats, blogs or discussion boards and red any papers or informational pieces written by the lawyer. Find out how what type of clients the lawyer represents and check online archives of the local newspaper to find out if anything good or bad has been publicized about his or her previous cases.
Schedule a consultation
Once you have shortlisted 2-3 names, you need to schedule a consultation. While most firms offer free first consultations, some may charge an initial consultation fee ranging from $75 to $250. While it’s understandable if the attorney may not meet you on short notice as they have scheduled court appearances and closings, too long a wait of a week or more indicates that the attorney is too busy to handle a new case with the attention it requires.
Your consultation with the lawyer is the most important deciding factor for hiring the lawyer as it’s important you have a rapport with the lawyer to hire them. You have to choose based on how well the attorney listens to you and understands your case, how well the attorney explains the case to you and if they give you confidence of resolving your legal problem cost-effectively.
As the attorney will be delegating some work to their staff, their staff should also treat you courteously and professionally. Ask for, and follow up references who comment on the lawyer’s skills and honesty. Check the firm’s brochure and other promotional materials with other sources to verify whatever the firm claims and states.
Go through the lawyer’s retainer agreement with the lawyer before hiring them. Attorneys generally charge for their services by the hour, with a fee retainer or on a contingency basis where you pay only a percentage of the fees first and the remainder if the lawyer wins the case for you. While some cases like personal injury cases are usually charged on a contingency basis, other types of cases like criminal defense are usually charged by the hour.
Find out if the firm requires an initial retainer as even firms charging on an hourly basis may ask for an initial retainer of a few thousand dollars as security before starting the case. However this money should be paid to the attorney’s trust fund and used only to pay for services rendered. The attorney returns any balance to you if the representation ends before the retainer is billed.
Don’t forget to discuss additional costs expected during the case like photocopying costs, expert witness fees and computerized legal research. You need to make arrangements to cover these expenses.
After the consultation, and learning about the attorney’s fees, it’s up to you to make the final decision about the lawyer to choose. Trust your gut instinct as an attorney-client relationship should be built on rapport, honesty, comfort and trust. And of course, the attorney should be someone you can afford, and not someone who charges you so much that the case is not worth fighting for!
So if you want to know more about a lawyer in your area you plan to hire, just click here!