In order to ensure you get the most out of your relationship with an attorney, it’s important to avoid any mistakes when choosing your legal counsel. Here are some of the biggest missteps that can lead to hiring a deadbeat attorney and what you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen to you!
1) Don’t be afraid to do your own research
Online resources and easy-to-read articles are readily available if you’re feeling overwhelmed by legal jargon. Many attorneys may also offer a consultation for a fee, so feel free to contact them with any questions you might have. This way, you can find an attorney that best suits your needs—not someone who’s just going through their Rolodex.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Attorneys are hired because they know how to handle a range of situations, but that doesn’t mean they can read your mind. If you don’t ask them questions—and actually listen to their answers—you could end up with outcomes and results you didn’t expect or intend. Always feel free (within reason) to ask your attorney questions about any part of your case or how he or she is handling it.
3) Personal references are important
When it comes time to hire an attorney, most people rely on personal references. This is a big mistake! You may know or work with several attorneys, but you likely don’t know all of them—and that’s assuming they practice in your area of law. Here are three strategies for finding top-notch lawyers
4) Ask how they communicate with clients
If your attorney doesn’t have an easy way for you to get in touch with them, find one who does. Ask your potential attorneys how often they will be available, whether it’s by phone or email, and whether their schedule is open for new appointments or consultations. In any business relationship—legal or otherwise—communication is key. Not only does face-to-face communication help forge trust; it also helps keep both parties on track and on task.
5) How long have they been practicing law?
An attorney is not automatically better because he or she has been practicing law for 15+ years. Experience is important, but if your attorney hasn’t successfully litigated cases like yours in recent years, you should be wary.
6) How many years have they practiced law in your state?
If you’re about to hire an attorney, you might have questions about their experience level. If it’s your first time selecting legal counsel, most people are comfortable with someone who has practiced law for at least five years.
7) What are their areas of expertise?
You’ll want an attorney who specializes in your specific area of concern. If you’re trying to dissolve a business partnership, you might look for an attorney whose expertise lies in business law. If you want help settling an estate, look for someone with experience in family law. Knowing your field will also help you keep costs down; typically attorneys that specialize in one type of law cost less than those that offer jack-of-all-trades services.
8) Do you ever offer free consultations?
Many attorneys offer free initial consultations. This is an excellent opportunity for you and your attorney to get acquainted and discuss any legal issues you’re facing. However, always remember that just because an attorney offers free consultations, doesn’t mean they’ll spend as much time with you as they do with paid clients. Before you agree to meet with an attorney, always ask what their consultation policy is.
9) Ask about how you will be billed (hourly, flat fee, etc.)
If you hire an attorney on an hourly basis, make sure you ask how many hours they estimate your case will take. Also, ask if they will provide details as to how they arrived at that number. Don’t be afraid to negotiate: You are not bound by anything you agree on with an attorney until it is put in writing and signed by both parties.