Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Lawyer

Feb 5th, 2017

Hiring a lawyer is an important decision, and it should not be taken lightly. For many, legal situations are overwhelming and confusing.

Choosing the right lawyer can make or break your legal case. It is important to choose someone, not only with experience handling cases like yours, but also someone who you trust and can see yourself working with.

Consider the topics and questions below before making the decision to hire any lawyer.

1. What is Your Background?

When choosing a legal counsel, you want to make sure that you are choosing someone with a proven track record handling cases like yours. How many similar cases has your potential lawyer worked on, and were they successful? Sometimes, a lawyer with 10 years of experience is a better choice than one with 30 years of experience, dependent upon their specialized practice areas.

In hiring an attorney, you also want to be sure that there are no conflicts of interest. Most lawyers ethically disclose any potential conflict of interest, however, it is still important to ask the question. Is there any reason that this person should not represent you in this case?

2. How Are Fees Handled?

Lawyers have a variety of fee structures. Ask your potential lawyer if you will pay an hourly rate or a fixed amount. Will the fee include additional expenses on top of attorney fees? Lawyers may also charge for administrative fees and overhead expenses.

Next, you should determine when payment is due. Will your potential lawyer send you regular bills? If so, how often? Alternatively, some lawyers require you to pay costs upfront. Determining how and when you are billed will help you decide what you can afford.

3. What is the Plan?

Your goal in hiring legal counsel is to better the outcome of your case. Does this attorney have a strategy in mind? Working with someone who has previously handled cases like yours, it is likely that they may already have a rough plan of action.

It is also important to consider that not all cases need to go to trial. Ask your lawyer if there are alternatives to trial that you may benefit from. Some cases can be settled using negotiation, mediation, or arbitration.

4. How Do I Stay in Touch?

In any legal case, communication is key. You want to be sure that you and your lawyer are able to work well together.

Find out the best method of contact, and what your potential lawyer’s availability looks like. Will he or she have the time to respond to your calls and emails in a timely manner? You do not want to choose someone whose schedule is too packed. This lawyer would not be able to give you the time needed to answer questions and successfully represent your case.

If you are considering a large law firm, be sure to ask who will handle your case specifically. At large firms, a case could be given to another attorney or even a paralegal. Will this person have the same experience as the person you are talking to now?

Lastly, you want to be sure that you fully understand what your potential lawyer is saying. Do your communication styles match? To remain informed throughout your case, you want to be sure that your potential lawyer will give regular updates and speak in layman’s terms when necessary.

Making the Choice

Is your potential lawyer the right person to represent you? Without asking smart questions when deciding on legal counsel, you could end up with poor results. Knowing an attorney’s background, fee structure, plans for your case, and communication style can help you make an informed decision.

Jill A. Silverstein specializes in Employment Law, Civil Rights, and Family Law in Missouri state and federal courts. Do you have questions about a legal case? Contact Jill A. Silverstein at 314-862-7999.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

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