Ten Tips for Hiring an Attorney

| August 1, 2012

attorney with clientWhen you’re in need, it is crucial to find the right lawyer to address your problem. Lawyers can explain your rights and help you to present your side of the story if you face criminal charges. An attorney can also help with civil issues such as filing for bankruptcy, preparing a will, or helping with consumer disputes.

Check out DexKnows for suggestions, and keep the following tips in mind.

Identify your need

Determine your exact need when searching for a lawyer. What do you hope to achieve? Legal Connection, a website powered by the free online legal index Findlaw, suggests identifying your goals. This may include seeking legal review of a contract, forming a business, finding out the consequences of a certain course of action, or evaluating whether someone has a legal claim against you. Identifying your goals early in the search will help you and your legal counsel focus on the important issues.

Ask around

Seek recommendations from friends, co-workers and employees. If you know any lawyers, ask them whether they have any suggestions of specific attorneys who handle your type of case. The Michigan Bar Association suggests asking accountants, doctors, financial advisors and others who regularly do business with lawyers.

Check certification

States’ bar associations can help you determine whether a lawyer is authorized to practice law in your state. Contact the attorney discipline board or similar governing entity to see whether an attorney has been subject to any disciplinary actions. A certified lawyer referral service may also help.

Determine the type

Lawyers may specialize in certain areas, including bankruptcy, workers’ compensation, criminal defense or personal injury. Search for an attorney with a specialization that fits your need.

Prepare questions

Write up a list of questions to ask prospective lawyers. Ask whether they have handled cases similar to yours. If so, what was the outcome of the case? How much time did it take to resolve the case? How often do conflicts covered by the lawyer end up in court, get settled through mediation or by an arbitrator? Also ask about the size of the firm and whether anyone else will be helping with your case.

Discuss costs

Lawyers’ fees may differ and certain tasks may be more expensive than others. Schedule a consultation to discuss your case and its potential cost. Expertlaw.com cautions potential clients to remember that a “retainer” fee is only an estimate of what a case may cost and is not a guarantee of the final cost. Ask about what the maximum fee may be and try to negotiate a price. In some non-criminal cases, such as personal injury ones, the lawyer’s fee may be a percentage of a settlement amount, commonly referred to as a contingency fee.

Consider alternatives

Many communities have low-cost legal services that are willing to help people in need. Employers may offer legal insurance or assistance as part of their benefits plan. Attorneys may also take a case pro bono if the issue fits with the lawyer’s particular interest or is a case of the common good.

Sharing a two-way street

You won’t be the only one asking questions. Attorneys may ask questions that you find difficult to answer or embarrassing. Legal Connection advises it’s important to be complete and truthful so that your lawyer can do his or her best to handle your case and provide the representation that you need.

Come prepared

Gather up any paperwork you need before consulting with an attorney. The attorney may ask specifics such as family income and expenses when determining likely child or spousal support. Make sure to have contact information for anyone involved in your case and documents, such as accident reports.

Get it in writing

The Michigan Bar Association advises clients to get a written retainer or fee agreement. Read any agreement carefully and ask all your questions before signing. Keep these tips in mind as you stroll through the Dex pages.

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Category: Attorneys, Professional, Services

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Central Ohio journalist with 15 years experience at daily newspapers. Freelance writer and amateur photographer. Storytellers are my heroes, poets my idols and photographers my looking glass.