Let’s be honest—no one wants to need an attorney, but sometimes you do. Needing an attorney and not hiring one or hiring one too late could cost you time, money, or even your freedom. Here are 5 things to consider when choosing an attorney:
Can I Just Hire Any Attorney to Handle My Issue? No!
Once an attorney passes the State Bar Exam she or he can practice in any area except patent law. There is a separate patent bar that an attorney must pass before practicing patent law. However, most attorneys do not take cases in many different areas of law. Why not? It takes a long time and a lot of work to become an expert in a specialized area of law. The law is so diverse and complex that “general practitioners” are all-but extinct today. If you have an employment-related matter, it is best to higher an attorney who specializes in that field.
First, think about what you need done. Do you need to draft a will or set up a trust for your heirs? You should find an attorney specializing in trusts and estates. Did you or a loved one pick up a DWI? You will need a criminal defense attorney, but not necessarily an attorney that only handles DWI defense. Do you want you want to start a business? You will need a lawyer who is familiar with corporate law and contracts. Do you believe you have been sexually harassed at work? If so an employment attorney is the best type of lawyer to advise you. Now you can narrow your research to attorneys who are experts in your area of need.
Next, Do Your Research.
Speak up and ask others if they know of an attorney that handles your specific concern. Often times other attorneys are great resources. They tend to know attorneys that practice in their niche or whom they see in court. If you need another type of attorney you can also ask friends, or call the local bar association or state bar association. They typically have lawyer referral programs. They will also make sure that the attorneys on those referral lists have not been disciplined or disbarred. There are also online resources that can come up by searching the Internet for the attorney’s name. Oftentimes attorneys have reviews, but keep in mind that reviews are not always accurate. It is best to meet with an attorney beforehand and make a personal assessment.
Think About Price
Lawyers charge different rates and have different fee structures. It is important to know how your attorney will be paid for and whether you can afford him or her. Typical fee structures go as follows: clients are billed hourly and periodic bills are sent to the client, or an upfront retainer is paid by the client and the attorney is paid for work done at an hourly rate, or contingency, the attorney is paid if the case settles or goes to trial and a money judgment is secured. Most cases include some form of a cash retainer to secure representation. Different stages of the case can be charged separately. For example it is often an additional fee for a case to go to trial. You do not want to get midway through a case and not be able to afford your lawyer, or have to settle a case because you cannot afford to pay for the attorney’s time at trial.
Personality Is Important
Can you work with your attorney? Do you trust him or her? Can you communicate effectively? Do you feel like the attorney’s staff is responsive and helpful as well? The best way to determine whether you and your attorney can work together is to schedule a consultation before you hire him or her. Bring all your documents and lay out what you need done. Consultations are sometimes free, be sure to ask when scheduling one if there is fee and if so, how much?
You Can Always Fire Your Attorney
Finally, remember you can always fire your attorney and hire someone else if you are dissatisfied with the representation you are receiving. Now, you will have to pay the first attorney for any work they did prior to being fired. However, you as the client always have the right to hire new counsel. Courts will grant reasonable time for you to do so as well as time for the attorney to become familiar with the case.
Hopefully, you will find the most qualified, affordable attorney, who works well with you and will get you the best result possible.