On Finding a Lawyer: Steps You Need to Take Before Deciding On One

A lawyer and the jury

Are you considering hiring an attorney? Have you thought it over carefully and decided that, no if, ands or buts, you need legal representation? Great, if so. Case closed (or it will be, once your lawyer gets cracking.)

What if you’re not sure, however? What if you’re only weighing the options, but wish you had more input?

Look no further. We’ll set forth a few considerations which should make it a bit easier for you to decide whether it’ll be a yay or nay decision on your part…and what to ask, if you DO decide to have legal counsel

Steps To Consider Before Hiring an Attorney:

1. This may sound like Common Sense 101, but have you tried to work things out on your own, or with the other party or parties in question? We ask for two reasons: first, no-one knows the situation as well you do, and, second, when you hire a lawyer, you’ll be incurring an expense which, depending on the complexities of the case, might become enhanced. Most attorneys rely on the billable hour as compensation and, once you’re past the free consultation, the clock starts ticking.

2. Can you describe your problem in one sentence? Your attorney and you will benefit greatly by your ability to hone in on the issue at stake. Take a moment to scribble the answer down, and read it back. Does it read as if it would be easily understood by someone who didn’t know you; who wasn’t familiar with the details of the situation, and who just needed a broad overview? No add-ons. Just the facts.

3. If you can’t come up with the words to lay out the problem and make it understandable in one sentence, see if this works: Start the sentence with: “My issue is that I stand a chance of_________” and then finish it with “…and I’d like to know how to best resolve it.”

4. Determine how QUICKLY you need your problem attended to. Is it something you need to have happen today, if possible? Or is it something that can be put on the back burner for a few weeks, or months, or even years?

5. When you spot an ad or a site for an attorney who seems to be a good fit, take time to read the fine print. Some lawyers specialize only in certain fields. Other attorneys are “generalists” and specialize in many fields. Additionally, many practicing members of the Bar are licensed in more than one state. You need one who practices in your state of residence (or the state where the incident in question occurred.) Check the “About Our Attorneys” link of the law firm’s website.

6. We can’t overemphasize how important it is to hire an attorney who has been trained in, and has actual experience in, whatever you are looking for assistance in. If you’re not sure what the category which you need help in is called, no worries. Call the office and find out. There’s usually no charge for having your initial phone queries answered. A paralegal or legal assistant does phone intake, and, after providing basic contact information, you’ll be able to run the issue by them, and let them tell you what sort of attorney you need.

7. You’ll have to feel that you can trust the man or woman behind the Esq. This is something that comes after speaking to the attorney, whether on the phone or in person. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed or pressured into making a decision. There is no law which states that you must choose the first attorney that you come across. Attorneys and their staff expect that you’ll be “shopping”, and as such, they know that it’s par for the course to answer questions thoroughly, and graciously.

8. When you come across an attorney who seems extremely eager to solicit your business, think twice. For the most part, competent attorneys are very busy.

9. Go online and see what your potential lawyer’s profile consists of. Are there any reviews by happy or unhappy ex-clients? If he or she includes a photo in their profile, do you get a sense, looking at the photo, of a confident professional who’s positive and helpful, without being arrogant? Keep looking until you do. It’s true: many times, a picture is worth 1,000 words.

10. When you’ve compiled a “short-list” of a few attorneys who seem to be a good fit, ask each one to explain to you how legal fees would be generated. In other words, you need to know what sort of activity would generate which sort of fees? Granted, each case is different, and counsel won’t be able to forecast the way your particular case will go, but they should be able to give you a realistic ballpark figure, so that you have an idea of what you’re getting into.

11. Be prepared for every outcome. Know that you have every right to dismiss counsel if it’s not working out for you. You’ll need to notify them in writing that you’re seeking legal counsel elsewhere. Date and sign the letter of notification, and move on.

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