What Should I Ask Before Hiring an Attorney?

Most people do not hire attorneys everyday. This may leave them at a bit of a disadvantage in knowing what they should find out from an attorney before hiring them. Before hiring a lawyer, you should get information about these aspects of the attorney-client relationship:

How does the attorney bill for his/her services?

This is the crux of your business relationship with the attorney, so there is no need to be shy about discussing this matter with your lawyer. You should also find out what you will be getting in exchange for these fees. These are the first things you should ask an attorney before your first meeting. Indeed, some attorneys will charge you for the initial consultation, so you should know that before you go in to get information and come out with a bill in hand. If the lawyer's office will not give you any information about how they charge during your initial phone call, beware.

You will want to find out what structure the attorney uses for billing. Flat rate (one price for all services regardless of how long they spend on the matter) is a great option for cases that are very routine, like evictions or uncontested divorces. Contingency fees are common in cases like personal injury, medical malpractice, and other cases with very large potential judgments that make it financially reasonable for the attorney to take a portion of the recovery instead of charging hourly rates. And, of course, the most common type of billing arrangement is hourly billing, in which an attorney bills for his own time and the time of his paralegals, at a certain rate per hour, meaning you pay for exactly the amount of work you get. Remember, costs, like copies, telephone calls, court reporter fees, postage, etc. will likely be separate from the attorney fees, so be sure to ask about that, too.

How will the attorney respond to your requests?

One of the biggest sources of complaints against attorneys has to do with them being unresponsive. Granted, attorneys are very busy, but they need to make responding to you, the client, a priority in order to have an effective relationship. Generally, lawyers who are bad at responding in a timely fashion are this way because they lack adequate support staff. Many try to wear every hat in their office, from drafting pleadings, meeting with clients, and going to court, to making copies, stuffing envelopes, and answering phones. Doing too much makes it easy for the attorney to become distracted and hard for him or her to get back to you in a timely fashion. As a result, you should ask your lawyer how he or she will respond to your ongoing needs, how quickly he or she can return calls, and whether the attorney has someone on hand in the office to answer quick questions should they come up and you need to get a quick answer.

Of course, you need to understand that the attorney may not personally be available at your every call. Most attorneys have highly trained and qualified staff members who can provide you with the answers you seek. Your lawyer cannot be effective representing you or other clients if he or she is taking every call that comes through to him or her everyday. As a result, if you need to speak with your attorney, you should be prepared to schedule an appointment for a phone call when you are both ready and available.

What is the attorney's specialty?

Generally, attorneys focus their careers on specific practice areas. This allows them to build up a special expertise in those areas. Every attorney will have a little knowledge about most areas of the law, because that is a requirement to be admitted to the bar, but they are not experts in the area. They might be able to answer a few questions at a superficial level, but probably will not be comfortable taking on those kinds of cases. This does not mean they are unskilled or incompetent in the areas they actually practice in on a daily basis. Indeed, you should probably be aware of the attorney who professes to be an expert on every field of law, given how vast this body of information truly is.

How can the attorney-client relationship end?

This is a critically important question to ask any service professional, because you can never know at the beginning whether everything will go smoothly. If issues arise, if the attorney dies, if there is a shake up at the law firm, how will the attorney-client relationship be treated? Will it end? Will it transfer to someone else? How can you end the relationship if you are unhappy? Will there be additional fees or a deposit that is sacrificed? You should know the answer to this question before you sign an agreement, or it may be too late if you later change your mind.

Provided by HG.org

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case.

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