There are many reasons as to why you might need to hire an attorney. You could be going through an acrimonious divorce, have suffered an injury in a car crash, been sacked unfairly at work, are trying to launch your own business or writing a will. You might even be facing legal proceedings yourself and need somebody to defend you against them.
Whatever is behind your requirement for legal representation, hiring a lawyer can seem like a daunting task. You need to get the right person for the job to give you the best chance of a successful outcome.
With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of six tips on getting the right attorney for you.
- Get a specialist in the relevant field
Many attorneys will specialize in a particular area of law, which means that you need to ensure you are hiring the right person for the job. If you are in court due to a dispute regarding a car accident, then having a lawyer who specializes in drafting wills representing you could have a negative impact on your case.
For a divorce case, hire a specialist divorce lawyer. If you are in court for a personal accident claim, then secure the services of a personal injury specialist such as Attorney Louis Patino. Having somebody who is an expert in the relevant field can give a real boost to your chances of success.
You might have friends or family who has had to hire legal representation for a similar reason as to why you are now doing so. If that is the case, then speak to them about who they used and if they would recommend their services. If you don’t know anybody who has been in court, then you can always check with your local bar association who should be able to offer you referrals.
- Do your research before hiring
Hiring a lawyer is like buying a house – you don’t have to select the first one you find! Talk to more than one attorney and give them a clear, concise summary of your case. Find out about their experience, the way they work and what they think your chances of success will be. After all, if they don’t believe you’ve got much of a case, then they might not be the best person to represent you!
With the average cost of a specialist divorce lawyer being $250 per hour, for example, you need to find a lawyer who you like and trust as that is a lot of money to be handing over to a person you don’t have any belief in. While we are on the subject of fees, the financial side will also come into play. Make sure you hire an attorney who you believe will deliver you value for money – and be sure to ask if there will be a consultancy fee for that initial meeting. There is nothing worse than having to fork out a three-figure sum just to meet a lawyer that you decide within a couple of minutes isn’t right for you.
- Come to an agreement with your chosen attorney
Once you have settled on an attorney, you need to iron out all the details of your arrangement. This is important to avoid any nasty surprises down the line. How often will they update you on your case? What information do they need from you? How do they want to approach things?
You need to be comfortable with the way that your attorney is going to work and at the same time be up front and honest with all the facts surrounding the situation you have found yourself in. Signing a written agreement with your attorney can help avoid any ambiguity, and it will also help set in stone the thorny issue of fees, which we will tackle next.
- Work out how you are going to pay your attorney
There are many ways in which you can pay for an attorney depending on your financial situation. You should agree on the costs up front, and in some states, the attorney has to supply this information in writing by law.
Once you’ve settled on a figure, you can work out a payment plan. Depending on the attorney in question, they may accept contingency fees where a lawyer takes a percentage of any successful claim, hourly rates, a flat fee or a retainer whereby you pay the attorney up front and they use this money as down payment on expenses and fees.
Alternatively, you may qualify for public legal services through individual organizations depending on your financial situation. These are particularly prevalent in landlord-tenant or divorce cases.
- Keep good records and don’t be afraid to question
Your attorney will almost certainly ask you for documents about your situation in order to help build your case. Before you hand them over, be sure to take copies as there is no guarantee you’ll get them back given how often items go missing in the hectic world of law firms.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your attorney either. That can be from requesting a copy of documents they are using to asking them to explain any charges that appear on their invoice that are unclear to you. Remember: your attorney works for you.
- Ensure you are satisfied with the service you receive
On that last point about them working for you; you have to be happy with the service you are receiving from your attorney. If you aren’t, then you have the power to fire your attorney. If that is a route that you want to take, then remember to weigh up the positives and negatives of having to start all over again with a brand new lawyer.
It can lead to your case being delayed and mean that incur additional costs. On the flip side, you might be able to replace your old attorney with one who has an approach that turns out to be more suited to you winning your case.
Chances are it won’t come to that though. If you take on board everything we’ve written here, you should be able to find the right attorney to deliver the success in your case that you deserve.