When it comes time to choose a lawyer, you should start by searching close to home. If you do have attorneys you are familiar with, ask who they believe would be best for you. After going through personal references - especially from individuals who had similar needs - you should broaden your search through public information resources. You can call your area's attorney referral service or check legal organizations like Martindale-Hubbell. There are other resources available online, such as yellowpages.com. You can check websites for client reviews and other third-party forms of approval.
Why should I hire a lawyer?
If you sign documents and you come across a word you don't recognize, or you need help to navigate important employment or real estate paperwork. Also, during times when personal matters intersect with legal proceedings, you might need to have an advocate to prevent your emotions from getting in the way. If you've been accused of a crime or are in a terrible financial situation, you can find an attorney who will work with what you have available.
What can I have an attorney do for me?
When you hire a lawyer, you're agreeing to work with someone over a certain period of time. The more forthcoming the lawyer appears to be with individual needs, the better.
You need to ask questions about how the attorney will communicate with you and what responsibilities you hold in the relationship.
The attorney should let you know the best channel for quick communication and you need to inform him or her when you want updates.
You should also ask questions to get to know the attorney as an individual in order to ensure this is a person you can trust. Ask about their legal philosophy and how he or she views the lawyer/client relationship. Ask as how to keep fees down or what daily disruptions you should expect from a long legal battle.
How much will an attorney cost?
You need to ask about every possible fee that will come up when working with an attorney. You should request a list of all costs in advance so you won't be surprised by additional expenses like overhead. Also determine exactly when you will start being billed. You want to inspect paperwork carefully. If the attorney charges you for his or her experience, you need to make sure he or she will perform tasks personally and not hand it off to an assistant. Find out if the attorney has a flat fee or charges by the hour. Many civil lawyers work on contingency. Make inquiries about how the lawyer plans to provide service for your money and what you can do if you start to feel unsatisfied with his or her performance.
Can I ask an attorney about past cases they worked on?
You can ask how many similar cases they have handled and if they have special skills or training that applies specifically to your needs. Lawyers can't mention clients by name, but you should ask for basic details about identical past cases. You should check their office for the appropriate certifications and diplomas. You can also ask how long he or she has practiced law and request information that demonstrates the practice's success. Look for precise details such as percentage of cases settled out of court.