Legal matters seem to arise when you are least expecting them, which means you have to find a good lawyer quickly to get things settled. With all the names in the phone book it is difficult to know who to hire and what questions to ask. This article gives you ten important tips for you to follow to get the best lawyer for your needs.
1) Is the lawyer experienced with your matter?
There are many different kinds of law, and the lawyer your best friend recommended may not have expertise in the area of your situation. For example, an arts and entertainment lawyer would not handle a divorce case and a criminal lawyer wouldn’t feel comfortable handling a patent law question. To find your perfect lawyer you need to know his area of expertise.
2) If you have special needs, make sure the lawyer can accommodate you before hiring them.
It’s important to make sure you can communicate with your lawyer and be comfortable while settling your legal matter. If you have special needs or items that need to be taken into consideration you might want to use those needs to help you narrow down your lawyer search. For example, if you’re not a native speaker of English, maybe a lawyer that is bilingual would be more helpful when it comes to understanding the full details of your case.
3) As with any professional, ask for references and make sure you follow through with calling them.
A good lawyer takes pride in his work and would be happy to have you talk to satisfied clients. Ask these references if they were satisfied with how the lawyer handled the case, if they were charged fairly and if they had any reservations about using them again.
4) Is the first appointment free?
When calling lawyers you’ll want to find out if the first appointment is free so you can plan ahead with your budget. Some lawyers offer an initial consultation period that’s free so they can get to know you and assess if the case is right for them. During this period they will hear your matter, discuss the direction to follow to solve the problem and let you have a basic estimated cost.
5) What are my options?
Will you pursue settling the matter out of court? It’s good to know what legal options you’ll have, if any. A good lawyer should be able to give you a brief outline of the steps he will take to get to the bottom of your case. Your case may be complicated and have many steps with motions to be filed and motions hearings. It could also be a simple case that can be settled in a single court date. If you’re lucky, the matter can be settled out of court, saving you a bundle in court costs. Your lawyer will know the best course to take for your personal interests. As always, ask questions if you don’t understand what your lawyer is telling you.
6) Who will handle my case?
In a small law firm you may have only a lawyer working on your matter, but in larger firms your lawyer may assign your case to a paralegal or another associate that helps out in the law firm. Having these assistants work with the lawyer on your case may help to keep the costs down.
7) If I have a question, how long can I expect to wait to hear back, and how will you communicate?
Communication is a big key to solving your legal matter in an efficient way. You don’t want to be calling your lawyer every day as that can be annoying and distracting, especially if there’s nothing new going on in your case. Remember that your lawyer will have court dates and times he’ll have to attend for other clients so when you make a call you may not hear from him until the end of the business day. Plus, you will pay out of your own pocket for each phone call your lawyer makes on behalf of your case, including to you.
Ask what time of the day is best to reach the lawyer. If you can, save up your questions and ask several at a time to make your phone call more efficient, but don’t hesitate to call if you have a pressing matter that can’t wait.
You should also find out how the lawyer prefers to communicate. Some lawyers may prefer to phone while others might find a quick email easier to answer. Others may like to drop a letter in the mail. As long as you know when and how you’ll hear from your lawyer you can keep your mind on more pressing matters.
8) What will it cost for your services?
In the first consultation visit your lawyer won’t know the exact amount you’ll be charged for his services but he should know a ballpark figure from working on other cases like yours. In most cases you’ll be expected to pay a retainer fee upfront. A retainer fee is a fee you’ll pay to secure the lawyer’s services, to hire him.
Don’t be afraid to shop different lawyer’s fees. Sometimes you can negotiate your fees or get lower fees if a junior lawyer or a paralegal handles some of your case.
9) What are the legal fees, and how will I be billed?
There are two kinds of legal fees: professional costs and disbursements.
Professional fees cover a lawyer’s time and effort dealing with your case. For example, time spent in court, in meetings or on the phone with you and time spent researching information are covered in this area. There are different ways of charging for professional costs:
An hourly rate may be applied to some types of cases.
A flat-rate fee could be applied for the amount of work the lawyer will perform. For example, if you need the lawyer to simply prepare some documents you may be charged a flat rate fee.
No win, no fee agreement. This means if you don’t win your case in court, you won’t have to pay for the lawyer’s time. Usually you will have to cover any disbursement costs.
Disbursements are costs a lawyer pays out to people associated with the case, such as fees of assorted reports, cost of making copies and other such expenses. In most cases, even a no win, no fee agreement you’ll have to pay your lawyer for disbursements.
You’ll want to make sure your bill outlines the different services you are paying for. For example, if he’s spent 3 hours on the phone with you it should be outlined on your bill. Make sure you understand all of the charges and ask questions if you don’t.
Also, asking when the lawyer expects to be paid will help you to sort out your budget and get your funds in order.
10) Ask for brochures and a copy of the retainer agreement to go over to help you make a decision.
Most lawyers and law firms will have brochures and other informational paperwork describing their services. The retainer’s agreement is a form that sets up the schedule of fees and payments up front. You’ll want to read this carefully to make sure you understand what you’re getting into before hiring this lawyer.
Having to deal with a legal matter can be frustrating and costly, especially if you don’t choose the right lawyer to handle your case. Knowing what to ask and what to expect will help you find the right lawyer so you can focus on getting your legal problems settled.
Source by Julie Davidson