Where should you begin?
To find a reputable attorney, where do you begin? What about lawyers who advertise in newspapers, on television or radio? Isn’t this sleazy? How can lawyers.com help you to select a lawyer? What’s the next step? What about referrals? How can you prepare for your consultation? What should you ask a lawyer? How should you evaluate your consultation? How can you be a good client?
Contact local attorney referral services. Many state bar associations maintain attorney referral listings. If you use a referral service, keep in mind that some of these services simply compile names and contact information for local attorneys without regard to reputation, expertise or other qualifying factors. These “referrals” are not necessarily a pool of highly recommended lawyers.
What about lawyers who advertise in newspapers, on television or radio? Isn’t this sleazy?
Attorneys have the right to advertise truthfully to prospective clients. When responding to an ad for low cost legal services, find out what services a lawyer includes in his or her advertised fee. For example, a lawyer who advertises low fees for uncontested divorces will probably not include any applicable filing and related fees.
What’s the next step?
Once you’ve zoomed in on a few lawyers or firms, it’s time to telephone the office of each of your candidates. You might find it useful to sit down in advance and write a short summary of your case or situation. Don’t hesitate to put together a list of questions you want to ask before hiring a lawyer.
Typically, you’ll speak first with a receptionist or secretary. Here is an example of an initial inquiry:
“Hi, I’ve been fired from my job and I think it may be because of my age. I’d like to talk to an attorney about it.
Does this attorney handle employment discrimination cases on behalf of employees?
How many employee discrimination cases has he or she handled?
Does he or she provide a free consultation to potential clients?
How long will it take me to get an appointment to discuss my case with this attorney?”
When you call an attorney’s office, notice the courtesy of staffers who handle your call. Feeling comfortable is an important part of your relationship with your lawyer’s office.
What about referrals?
If you contact a lawyer who doesn’t handle your kind of case, he or she might be able to refer you to another attorney who does. Don’t hesitate to ask about the referred attorney’s legal experience and credentials, and if the referring attorney knows the referred attorney personally. If an attorney suggests a referral, you might ask if he or she is going to get a fee for the referral. Anytime you do get a referral, you can check out that attorney’s credentials in the lawyers.com directory. The first lawyer you speak with in a firm may offer you the services of another attorney in the firm. This is common practice. In many law firms, different attorneys specialize in different areas of law. Keep in mind that attorneys are not required to accept all cases or give referrals.
How can you prepare for your consultation?
Most lawyers are not scary people. However, you might be nervous about meeting with an attorney for the first time, particularly if you’ve had little experience with the legal profession. It could help to make a list of points and questions you want to discuss. Feel free to include questions you asked initially on the telephone, like inquiring if the attorney has had experience with cases such as yours. A lawyer’s willingness to explain procedures and answer questions may reveal something about his or her personality and the ability to interact with you in a manner that you find comfortable.
If you’ve been served with legal papers, bring them to the consultation along with important correspondence or other relevant documents. Show the attorney originals or copies. Don’t leave documents with an attorney unless you’ve decided to retain that attorney. And be sure to keep your own copies.
What should you ask a lawyer?
Here is a handy checklist of basic questions to ask before you hire a lawyer:
What is your experience in this field?
Have you handled matters like mine?
What are the possible outcomes of my case?
What are my alternatives in resolving the matter?
Approximately how long will it take to resolve?
Do you recommend mediation or arbitration?
What are your rates and how often will you bill me?
What is a ballpark figure for the total bill, including fees and expenses?
How will you keep me informed of progress?
What kind of approach will you take to resolve the matter – aggressive and unyielding, or will you be more inclined to reach a reasonable settlement?
Who else in the office will be working on my case?
Can junior attorneys or paralegals in the office handle some of the administrative work at a lower rate?
How should you evaluate your consultation?
After the consultation, ask yourself these questions:
Did the lawyer listen to you?
Did the lawyer give you an honest evaluation of the pros and cons of your legal situation?
Did he know the applicable laws affecting your case?
Did the lawyer answer your questions about her education and experience without being offended that you asked?
Did she give you complete information regarding her fees and billing practices?
Did you feel comfortable with his style and personality?
Be comfortable with the lawyer you hire. You want to choose the best lawyer you can afford who is experienced, competent, and willing to communicate. Hire a lawyer who’ll work with you and not just for you.
How can you be a good client?
A good attorney-client relationship is a two-way street. Take some simple steps to make sure that you’re on the same wavelength as your lawyer.
To help your lawyer help you, think through and articulate your objectives. Agree on some ground rules. Discuss the kind of approach you want your lawyer to take to resolve the matter. Let the lawyer know what your expectations are with regard to being kept informed of developments. Don’t hold back relevant information. Keep your lawyer informed of any developments on your end. If you have any questions about billing, raise them immediately.
Thanks to lawyers.com for the information included in this article.