Hiring a lawyer is something we hardly ever expect to have to do. What should you do when it happens to you? How do you go about finding the best lawyer to meet your needs?
Fortunately, there are quite a few sources of information about this. We have compiled some of that information to help you think about questions to ask if you ever need to know how to hire a lawyer.
Hiring a Lawyer
Here are nine questions we recommend asking when looking for prospective lawyers and deciding which one to hire.
Question 1: What is My Strategy for Finding the Best Lawyer
First, identify the area in which you need a lawyer and read a bit about it so that you can better articulate your needs. Then ask friends and family if they’re familiar with anyone who practices in the area you need.
If no one you know can help, go to state and local bar associations, or other reputable services to recommend a lawyer who specializes in the area of law you need.
There are many different areas of expertise for lawyers, so be sure to articulate your need clearly to those whose help you are seeking. Take a look at this law firm to learn more and figure out your exact need.
Question 2: What is the Lawyer’s Background and Experience?
Once you have selected one or more prospective lawyers, you’ll have initial appointments where you discuss their suitability for your case. Here are some recommended questions to ask about a lawyer’s background:
- What is your experience with this type of case? How many of these types of cases have you worked with or tried?
- What is your experience with the courthouse and judges?
- Have you ever had a sanction or accusation of misconduct levied against you?
- Are there any conflicts of interest that you’re aware of?
Question 3: What Will the Lawyer’s Charges Be and How Will I be Able to Pay Them?
You should not be reluctant to discuss legal fees up front. Before any work begins, ask what the cost will be for the lawyer’s services and whether you will be responsible for other fees and charges.
Types of payment arrangements include:
- Contingency fees
- Flat fee
- Hourly rates
- Public legal services
- Pre-paid legal insurance plans
Question 4: What Does the Lawyer See as Likely Outcomes of the Case?
A good lawyer will never guarantee victory, but they can give you an idea of what the outcome might be. They can also point out any potential problems you may face.
If you’re expecting a lawyer who is clairvoyant, you will have a long wait. However, if you’re expecting a lawyer with enough experience practicing law to know what to expect, you’ll have more luck.
It’s worth asking about likely outcomes to learn and gather information. This question also gives you a sense of how your lawyer views cases. Is the lawyer a realist or do they try to fill your head with dreams of dollar signs dancing on rainbows? If it’s the latter, look elsewhere.
Question 5: What Role Will You, the Client, Play in Preparing the Case? What Will You to Do?
Don’t be afraid to do some of the administrative work yourself. Since you might have better access to some of the needed papers than your lawyer does, you could save some money by finding them yourself.
Examples of this might include estate planning information or information on your debts for a bankruptcy case.
Question 6: How Will the Lawyer and Client Communicate?
Not surprisingly, two-way communication and collaboration are recommended for the lawyer-client relationship. Information should flow both ways, both parties should be available to one another, and both should readily return calls.
Question 7: What Is the Lawyer’s Proposed Strategy for the Case?
This is an important part of lawyer-client communication since there is a good possibility the client might question some of the lawyers chosen tactics — as well as those he/she does not wish to use.
After all, the lawyer’s strategy could be the most significant factor in the outcomes of a case.
Tactical or strategic decisions may involve the following:
- the choice of motions;
- the scope of discovery;
- which witnesses to call;
- the substance of the direct and cross-examination.
You need to be aware that lawyers are not bound to press for every advantage that might help a client.
Question 8: Will There Definitely Be a Trial or Are There Alternatives?
This is something to discuss with your lawyer early in the process. It depends primarily on what the situation is, who is involved, and how willing the parties are to engage in alternatives including arbitration, mediation, and others.
Many lawyers are trained mediators. If the lawyer you’ve chosen to work with doesn’t do mediation him/herself, there might be someone in the same firm or another local firm who does. Most cities also have mediation centers.
Question 9: Who (All) Will Be Working on Your Case?
A legal case involves many different people. Some are directly related while others are only marginally involved.
Many firms operate under different areas of practice, so if there are tangentially related issues bearing on your case, your lawyer might ask a colleague for advice.
There are paralegals, legal assistants, law clerks, legal secretaries, and others who might come into contact with aspects of your case.
Something you may want to ask your lawyer is whether a junior lawyer or paralegal can perform some of the work to help lower your costs.
Your Rights When Working with a Lawyer
What are some questions to ask an attorney who is not performing the job as well as she or he might?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers advice on how to proceed if you’re unhappy with your lawyer’s performance.
Don’t be a shrinking violet; this is your case and your money.
Are You Ready to Hire?
You’re probably nervous about whatever legal situation you have going on, and hiring a lawyer might seem like the least of your problems. Hopefully, seeing some of the questions to ask a lawyer has been helpful. Perhaps you’ve found someone you want to work with already.
Still looking? Why not explore some more options? There are many lawyers and law firms willing and able to meet your needs. We are one of them!