When you find yourself faced with a legal issue, the steps you take next can literally impact the rest of your life. Hiring a legal professional – and doing it the right way – is one of the most important decisions you’ll make.
Not sure how to hire an attorney for your case? You’re in the right place! Keep reading for ten must-know tips that will make hiring an attorney easy.
1. Ask for Recommendations
One of the best ways to find a good attorney is to ask people you trust for recommendations. Start with family and friends – ask if they’ve had a positive personal experience with an attorney in the area of specialty you’re looking for.
If you have a relationship with an attorney who works in a different specialty, he or she may also be able to give you a recommendation. For example, your business lawyer probably can’t help with a personal injury case, but he may be able to refer you to a great personal injury lawyer.
Use these recommendations to create a short list of three to five attorneys who you’ll investigate further before making a decision.
2. Do Online Research
Next, it’s time to hop online and start doing some research about each of the attorneys on your list. Check Google reviews and at least a couple of the lawyer review sites – like Lawyers.com and Justia.
It’s also a good idea to take a look through the lawyer’s website and their social media – including the reviews section. Remember that you can’t please everyone, so don’t put too much weight into one or two bad reviews, but if you start to see a pattern, consider crossing that lawyer off your list.
3. Schedule a Consultation
Once your research is done, narrow down your list to the top three, then call to schedule consultations. Most attorneys will meet with you for at least a brief consultation without charging you.
Pay attention to whether the person who answers the phone is polite and accommodating. When you arrive at the office, notice whether the location is convenient and whether you feel comfortable in the space.
4. Ask the Right Questions
When you sit down with the lawyer, it’s a good idea to have a list of questions prepared. This will ensure that you make good use of the time you have and that you don’t forget anything important.
Some of the questions you’ll want to ask include:
- Do you specialize in cases like mine?
- How long have you been practicing?
- Do you feel that I have a strong case?
- How much do you think my case is worth?
- How often do you take cases to court vs. setting?
- Who will be handling my case?
- How and when will I need to pay?
Look for an attorney who is honest and upfront when answering your questions. Don’t be afraid to take notes, as you’ll want to compare the interviews with each of your top three options and remembering who said what could become a challenge.
5. Assess fees and Costs
You never want to hire an attorney based on cost alone, but, of course, price does matter. Ask the attorney to thoroughly explain their fees, and, if possible, to provide you with a written summary. Don’t feel like you’re “being cheap,” you deserve to know what you’re paying for and how much it’s going to cost you.
6. Review the Payment Arrangements
There are different ways that your attorney might bill you. Options include:
- Contingency fee – the attorney receives a percentage of what you’re awarded if you win your case.
- Flat fee – a set dollar amount for services. This is common for simple things like writing a will or filing a non-contested divorce.
- Hourly rate – this is a set fee per hour. The final cost will depend on the number of hours worked.
- Retainer – this is a fee you pay upfront. Lawyers often use this to pay expenses and fees associated with trying your case.
It’s important to understand how your attorney bills so you know when and how much you can expect to pay. If you don’t ask these questions, you could end up with an unpleasant surprise.
7. Listen to Your Gut
Once you’ve reviewed all of this information and met with each potential attorney, it’s time to evaluate your experience with each and make a final decision. You’ll use logic for most of this evaluation, but it’s also important to listen to your gut. If you have a really great feeling about one attorney that you met with – if you feel like you trust and believe in him or her – then this is a great indication that you’ve made the right choice.
The same goes for a negative feeling. Even if you can’ quite put your finger on it, if there’s something that just doesn’t seem quite right to you, then move on. There are thousands of lawyers out there, so it makes sense to keep looking until you find one that’s a good fit for you.
Hiring an Attorney is a Critical Decision
Follow these tips for hiring an attorney and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve made an excellent choice. If you need even more information, take a few minutes to scroll through some of our other helpful blog post!