Legal matters can be complicated and confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep these 7 questions in mind when you talk to your lawyer; you’ll know if they have your best interests at heart.
1. Is there a fee for this consultation?
Hey, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Generally, lawyers (or other professionals) will offer an initial consultation for free to see if you have a case and what it might cost. But if they charge you a fee before they’ve looked at anything or told you how much it’d cost, walk away – the consultation is likely not worth the price.
2. Can you explain your hourly rate?
Before you agree to work with a lawyer on a fee-for-service basis, ask them to explain their hourly rate and what type of work it will take to reach the number of hours estimated. If you need clarification from a lawyer, ask them to break down a sample case scenario and tell you how long it would take to resolve it.
3. How can I contact you?
Before signing on the dotted line, ask your prospective lawyer where they’ll be available to help if you have questions or run into any problems. If something doesn’t make sense or you don’t understand, the lawyer should be able to explain it to you. If they can’t, look for another lawyer to answer your questions properly.
4. What will you do as my lawyer?
If you don’t know what your lawyer is supposed to do for you, you may have signed up for the wrong type of lawyer. If there’s a chance your issue could go to trial, or if it needs expert testimony from someone like an economist, ask if your lawyer has any experience in those areas. And make sure they know what they’re doing before they charge into battle.
5. How long have you been in business?
If you’re looking for a lawyer to represent you and they’ve been in business for less than a year, chances are they don’t know the most up-to-date legal precedent. And if they’re just starting, there’s no guarantee they can handle your case properly. If your lawyer is new to the game, talk to other people who have had similar experiences and ask them how long it took them to find a good lawyer. Remember: “The best lawyer” is rarely the one who charges the most money. It’s usually someone who knows what they’re doing and can help you get over your legal hurdle without going to court.
6. How long have you been in practice?
Like with your lawyer’s experience and how long they’ve been in practice, you’re looking for someone with experience with the specific legal issue you’re facing. Yes, finding a lawyer who has been licensed only recently may be hard, but that doesn’t mean they’ll do a bad job. Ask people who have hired them before and get their feedback on their character. And if someone tells you they’ve only been in practice one year but have years of experience, there’s a good chance they weren’t truthful about their time practicing.
7. How do you review your work?
Before you agree to hire a lawyer, be sure to ask them how they’ll review their work. Whether it’s through written reports, phone calls, or in-person check-ins, you need to know how they will ensure your case is handled correctly. If the lawyer is doing their job properly, there should be minimal red tape and hassle when it comes to reviewing the case – but don’t just assume that because they say they’ll be reviewing the process often, they’ll do it. The only way to ensure they’re doing everything right is by asking questions and speaking with them directly.
If you’re clear on what questions to ask and what you need from your lawyer, you’ll also feel more confident working with them. Remember: a bad lawyer may leave you in the dirt, but a good lawyer can help get you back on your feet and out of the legal mess. The power is in your hands. Good luck!
* Do your research before hiring a lawyer. Read reviews, compare rates, and watch for signs of inexperience with the law and poor communication with their clients. Parker Waichman attorneys have been practicing law and have offices nationwide. Contact one of their offices for a case review if you need representation.