The reasons to hire an attorney vary greatly. But some Key factors you should consider before retaining counsel are almost always the same.
Here are some basic guidelines for choosing an attorney, as well as several recommended steps to help you get off to a good start with your new lawyer.
1. Experience – it’s important to hire an attorney with experience in handling the legal issue you are dealing with. you wouldn’t go to a heart doctor for a skin ailment, would you? In the same way, you shouldn’t hire a domestic relations attorney for a business dispute.
2. Value – Experienced lawyers can generally charge more for their services. In short, the cheapest option is not always the best.
3. Compatibility – Be sure you’re comfortable with your attorney, both personally and professionally. Don’t hire any legal counsel until you’ve met and discussed your case in person with the attorney. That’s the best way to gauge how well you’ll likely work together.
4. Organization – Get all documents related to your legal situation, and create a timeline or history of the facts. When you meet with an attorney, share any written material, such as contracts, bills, checks, receipts, statements, letters, and e-mails. Provide a list of the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all persons involved and how each of them is involved. That way, your lawyer can advise you properly and quickly…and save you money.
5. Preparation – Be ready to discuss your case with the lawyer. To provide quality legal advice, your attorney needs to thoroughly understand the facts regarding your matter. Be truthful, and don’t withhold any related information, even if it’s negative. Remember, the attorney is legally bound to keep your discussion confidential. Also, be clear about your goals and expectations.
6. Listening – Feel free to take careful notes when the attorney talks with you about your case. Also, you want your legal advisor to be candid. The lawyer’s job is to tell you what you need to know, not to be your best friend. Be wary of an attorney who “guarantees” results. No lawyer can be expected to win every case, and sometimes the best legal advice may not be what you want to hear.
7. Fees – Make sure you understand the financial terms upfront. At your first meeting with the attorney, thoroughly discuss the fee structure. Generally, lawyers use two types of fee arrangements:
- Hourly (for business and general civil litigation)
- Contingency (for personal injury cases)
The lawyer should provide you with a written fee arrangement stating your rights and obligations, as well as the lawyers. Never use an attorney who won’t give you a written fee agreement.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to consult with your State Bar to verify that the attorney is in good standing, and has not been disciplined for any ethical violations.