Wednesday, May 29, 2019

8 Questions You Should Always Ask an Attorney to See If They're Right for You

Hiring the right lawyer for your legal situation is not something that you want to take lightly. You want to be thorough when you are interviewing potential attorneys to help you with your situation. If you’re not sure where to start, try asking friends, family, and co-workers if they have a lawyer they recommend. And even if you get rave reviews on any one attorney, you still need to do your due diligence and thoroughly investigate for yourself. Take these eight questions with you when you are meeting with potential lawyers to see if they’re right for you.

1. Have you tried this type of case before?

This may easily be one of the most important questions you ask your potential attorney. Choosing experienced attorneys can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. You wouldn’t want to trust a doctor who just graduated from medical school to perform open heart surgery, so it’s probably not the best idea to leave the fate of your case in the hands of an inexperienced novice. When your lawyer has the right background you will be much more at ease and more confident. If the answer is, “Yes,” be sure to ask more questions. Ask about the outcomes of those cases, how many of those types of cases and any other follow up questions that come to mind.

2. Are there any conflicts of interest?

Conflicts of interest can end up meaning disaster for you. You don’t want your attorney to have limited ability to represent you because of previous or current clients. For instance, you are looking to file a claim against an insurance company, but the potential lawyer regularly represents the insurance company, there would be a conflict of interest. If there is a conflict of interest you may not need to disqualify that attorney from your list, but you need to be aware of how this conflict will affect you or their ability to represent you.

3. What are the fees and charges?

Before stepping into an agreement with an attorney or law firm you need to know all the fees and charges that you will be assessed. If the lawyer’s fees are not within your budget, it may be a good idea to go with another lawyer. Ask if they charge by the hour or a flat fee. Ask if there are payment plan options as well as how and when they expect to be paid. Ask if there is a contingency fee, which essentially awards a predetermined portion of your settlement (if you win your case) to the attorney. If an exact figure cannot be provided, you want a very good estimate so that you can appropriately budget your funds.

4. Will a trial be necessary?

Taking a case to trial usually means that all the other attempts to settle or dismiss were unsuccessful. And depending on the nature of your case you may want to avoid a trial. Asking about possibly negotiating a resolution before the trial date is important because it can save you both time and money. If you’re dealing with a criminal case, you want a lawyer that is experienced with plea bargains. In the event that you’re dealing with a civil matter, your lawyer may suggest mediation or arbitration settle things without involving a judge and jury. This answer may even include a projected outcome. Of course, no one can predict the outcome but based on history and precedents, your lawyer can give you some idea of how things may unfold.

5. How will you communicate?

During the duration of your case, you want to stay informed regarding important dates and what is going on. You should feel comfortable calling to speak with your attorney and you should have the necessary contact information. If you aren’t comfortable with the communication options available or you don’t have access to the proposed contact options, you may want to reconsider putting your case in their hands.

6. Who will be assigned to your case?

Unless you go to a lawyer who is in business for himself and all by himself, you should find out who will be assigned to your case. If you are consulting with another lawyer, you should ask to speak with whoever will be handling your case. You also want to know who else will be taking on the work of your case. There are paralegals, investigators and junior associates that may be involved in your case in addition to your lawyer. This is not a bad thing, because when your attorney passes certain tasks to other lesser paid legal professionals you are saving money.

7. What is the strategy?

Any good lawyer should be able and ready to outline a few possible ways to attack your case. They should be able to list the strengths and weaknesses of any particular strategy and explain why one strategy is more preferable. The answer to this question should also include an estimated timeline of how long the case will take or how long each phase will take.

8. Have you been accused of misconduct?

You are well within your rights as a consumer to ask this question. Yes, it may feel a little invasive, but you need to know whether or not your lawyer is known for overstepping professional and ethical bounds. Your state’s licensing agency or professional societies, like the American Bar Association, may have this information online. You can ask about the circumstances surrounding the issue and also about the outcome. You may find that the attorney’s actions weren’t such a horrible or unconscionable thing at all.

These are just some very basic questions to ask an attorney or firm you’re considering giving your case to. It’s a good idea to write down your questions so that you get as many answers as you’re looking for. Of course, there will be questions that are specific to your case that you will want to ask as well, and since most first consultations are free, you can go about vetting attorneys at little to no cost.

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