Whether you need representation for a lawsuit or you are looking to sue for personal injury or any other reason, you’ll need a lawyer by your side.
However, many people find the process of hiring a lawyer to be intimidating. Especially if you’re in a time crunch and need to be in court soon, you might be feeling overwhelmed.
But the process doesn’t have to be difficult! Continue reading this complete guide to know what to look for when hiring a lawyer.
Determine How Much Help You Will Need From a Lawyer
Before interviewing lawyers, it’s important to determine what type of legal action you need help with, and how long you might be working with a lawyer.
If you are entering into a lawsuit, you will certainly need to work with a lawyer for some period of time.
However, if you’re looking for something short-term like setting up a trust or filing for bankruptcy, this will be a different type of relationship.
You might even need some legal advice or coaching, rather than hiring the lawyer long-term. There are many law firms that are open to offering limited advice and reviewing documents to help you determine what you need.
Ask About a Lawyer’s Experience and Specialty
Once you know what type of help you need, one of the first things you will want to look for when hiring an attorney is their experience.
If you’re looking for a personal injury attorney, you want to hire someone with experience in this specific type of law.
The same thing can be said for a divorce attorney or any other area of specialty, including criminal law, which is complex.
So when choosing a criminal defense lawyer, it’s important to make sure they have experience in similar cases as well.
Other than specialty, ask about their years of experience and their track record to see how successfully they have been in court. Finding a lawyer with a reputation for helping their clients is an excellent sign.
This doesn’t mean that a new lawyer isn’t right for you. You certainly might be able to find a newer lawyer who is freshly educated on the latest laws and regulations.
It’s important to ask for references and testimonials. The easiest way to see if a lawyer’s experience and approach is right for you is by reading reviews.
Ask About Their Experience With Trials and Arbitrations
Other than asking about a lawyer’s specialty and prior experience on cases, it’s also important to also learn about their experience with trials and arbitrations.
There are many types of cases where they often do not go to trial, like personal injury cases and small personal claims issues.
Your insurance might actually help determine if you go to trial based on how they handle your claim as well. Ask the lawyer and firm about their history with trials and arbitrations with cases that are similar to yours.
If your case has a good chance of going to trial and the law firm you’re speaking to has a long history with court settlements, you might want to look elsewhere.
You also want to make sure the law firm is up to date on things like current court processes. There are also many virtual trials lately so these lawyers with experience with this type of technology will benefit you greatly.
Check Out the Lawyer’s Reviews
Most current lawyers will have reviews online that can help you to make your decision.
Check their Google reviews, along with reviews on their websites and testimonials from clients. Look out for any cases similar to yours that can help you make your decision.
However, you’ll also come across fake reviews or incorrect reviews that could sway your decision. Due to this, reviews should just be one aspect in making your decision.
Any type of review is helpful, including word of mouth, so don’t feel like you need to rely on the internet.
If you know of any family members or friends who enjoyed their experience with a lawyer in the past, be sure to follow up on that referral.
Additionally, other professionals might have connections with lawyers, including your accountant or a medical professional who has potentially worked with a lawyer before. This is another way to find the connection you need.
Ask About Fees and Expenses
Other than experience and reviews, a realistic factor in making your decision will be money. When shopping around and looking for the right lawyer, be sure to ask about different lawyer fees to help you compare.
If you’re in the middle of a personal injury case, the lawyer will be paid on contingency. This means that they will be paid based on the amount that is received in the case.
Some lawyers may charge more due to their experience, which could benefit you in the long run. But if you’re on a strict budget, be sure to ask about the fees and expenses you should expect if you work with them.
Transparency with fees will be important and every law firm handles expenses differently. Ensure that they are upfront about calculating the expected fees.
Some law firms will have retainer agreements that they ask you to pay ahead of time. But other firms will have an hourly rate, so the cost will depend on how your case is handled and the time frame.
Another payment method is a “fixed fee” which would mean you pay the lawyer a set amount for their services. This can be helpful if you need assistance with writing a will or handling an uncontested divorce.
If your lawyer is on contingency, meaning they will end up with a percentage of what you win during the case, make sure you have an agreement.
In some of these agreements, you might need to later reimburse them for expenses related to the case.
Look for Good Communication With Clients
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of options after finding a lawyer that’s within your budget, be sure to check on their responsiveness with clients.
Some lawyers have a client response policy that ensures you will hear from them within a certain time period and communication method.
Whether they respond over email or over the phone, you’ll know that you will be hearing from them. As long as this works for you, the relationship will be on solid ground for you to continue with the case.
You can also ask about their prioritization policy. Some lawyers will go by court dates, but they may also prioritize based on payment status.
Regardless of their prioritization tactic, the most important thing is that they are keeping you updated on your situation and case.
You might be waiting a few days for a response, but it’s well worth it if they come back with the information you need.
Can You Build a Good Rapport?
A lawyer’s communication style, in general, will help you know if you can work with them. It’s important to feel comfortable around them and build good rapport.
When you’re meeting with a lawyer at a law firm, ask if this is the person you will continue to work with. There are times when your case can be turned over to other lawyers.
Be sure to ask about this so that you’re building rapport and getting comfortable with the person you will ultimately work with.
If they let you know a team will take it over, ask if you can meet them. This can include a law clerk or legal assistant.
It’s important to get to know everyone, this way they know who they’re calling when they update you on the case.
You will also know who you’re speaking with and you can feel more comfortable to ask questions and talk to them about the case.
Your lawyer doesn’t need to be your friend, but it’s important that you can understand each other and feel good about working together.
Look Out for Honest Advice
It seems obvious to look out for honest advice, but it’s an important aspect of your relationship with a lawyer. If you are working with someone who realistically evaluates your case, you will be much better off.
Make sure the lawyer is looking for any potential issues and downfalls to your case so that you know you will get their most honest opinion.
Additionally, if you have a lawyer who is guaranteeing an outcome, this should be a red flag. Lawyers should not promise any type of outcome, but they can give a probability of what they believe might happen.
It’s important that your lawyer is portraying a realistic picture of what will happen based on the facts.
It’s more than acceptable for a lawyer to have confidence in their assessment of the case, but this is different than promising a certain outcome.
The point here is to not fall for a lawyer who is a salesperson and just wants you to sign on. Make sure the lawyer is looking out for your best interest and wants to give you the best, most realistic result.
Find a Lawyer Who Listens to Your Needs
Other than honesty, you also want a lawyer who is also a good listener. It’s important to find someone who will be direct with you while also listening to your needs.
Find a lawyer who knows that your lived experiences are a valuable tool for the case and asks you about your knowledge in order to best represent you.
When you’re explaining your story for the case, the lawyer might interrupt to ask questions and keep you on track. This is fine since they might be paid by the hour and can help you out as well.
But you want to know that they care about your case and what you have to say. If you are determined to have a court settlement, rather than going to trial, it’s important that your lawyer takes this into consideration.
At the same time, make sure there’s a balance between what you want and what is realistic for the situation.
Ask for a Tour of the Office
Another aspect of finding the right lawyer is to take a tour of their law office. This may seem like a strange request, but it’s an important aspect of hiring someone you’ve just met.
If you’re living in a small town and you visit a lawyer’s office, you might find a less orderly situation. Is it neat or messy? Does it seem like there are conference rooms where you all can meet?
These are important questions to ask. You should also take note of employees you see. Does it seem well-run? Is the staff helpful to you while you’re there?
When you’re working with someone new, all of this information can help you to better understand if they’re the right person for you and your case.
Do Your Research Before Hiring a Lawyer
Being involved in a lawsuit can be a scary process, and you want to know your lawyer is competent and can help you along the way.
When meeting with different lawyers, be sure to ask them the right questions to find out if they’re right for you. Find someone whose fees and communication matches what you need.
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