Hiring A Lawyer | Best Guide To Hiring A Lawyer

Launching a business? Hurt in a car crash? Writing a will? In any of these situations, you may consider hiring a lawyer to advise you or represent your interests. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers the following advice to help you be smart when you choose — and use — legal representation.

Hiring an attorney might feel like a complicated, expensive and intimidating task, especially if you’re a freelancer doing nearly everything by yourself. Most individuals don’t know where to begin, how to choose the right person, or what it will cost.

Hiring an attorney might feel like a complicated, expensive and intimidating task, especially if you’re a freelancer doing nearly everything by yourself. Most individuals don’t know where to begin, how to choose the right person, or what it will cost.

Know Who You’re Dealing With

Many attorneys specialize in a particular area of law. Make sure your attorney has relevant experience. An attorney who regularly drafts wills may not be the best choice to represent you in a courtroom if the subject is an automobile accident. If not, check with your state and local bar associations. Some groups provide lawyer referral services for their own members.

Do Your Research

Try to talk with more than 1 lawyer before you select the one to represent you. But find out if you will be charged for an initial meeting. Be prepared to describe your problem in a short, clear summary. Ask the numerous attorneys about their experience, their fees, what your options might be, your chances of success, who will do the work, and when the problem might be resolved.

Hiring A Lawyer
Hiring A Lawyer

Know The Real Deal

As soon as you decide to hire a lawyer, make sure to know what you’ve both agreed to. How often will the attorney update you? What information will you be asked to provide? Do you know all your options? If you are not clear on exactly what the lawyer is doing, ask for clarification. Although your chances of success can not be guaranteed, discuss approaches to your case. Be up front with your attorney on all of the facts and circumstances surrounding your situation. You might choose to get the agreement with your lawyer in writing.

Fees and Costs

Before any work begins, ask what the cost will be for the attorney’s services and whether you’ll be liable for additional fees and charges. State ethics rules require lawyers to charge a reasonable fee. The American Bar Association advises that lawyers explain their fees, preferably in writing, within a reasonable time after beginning to represent you. And some state bars require that attorneys put their fees in writing before they take a case. Your lawyer may charge you extra for copying documents, courier services, court filing fees, or research services. Be certain that you understand what you will be charged for and how much.

Payment Arrangements

Remember the most expensive lawyer is not necessarily the best one for you. Nor is a”bargain” rate always a great deal. Look for the best balance of experience and cost. You may want to ask your lawyer if a junior lawyer or paralegal can perform some of the work to lower your costs. You also may want to ask if there are tasks you could perform yourself to save money and time. For example, you may be able to copy, pick up or deliver certain documents. A lawyer may charge you a flat fee for a particular service or offer alternative methods of payment.

A contingent fee arrangement means that your lawyer gets a percentage of whatever money you receive as resolution of your case. If you get no money, then your lawyer collects no fees. In case you have hardly any cash to pay hourly fees, it may be appropriate to negotiate a contingency fee with your lawyer. But before agreeing to a contingent fee, consider that:

  • The size of a contingency fee, usually a percentage of any money you receive to resolve the case, is always negotiable. Sometimes you can negotiate a sliding scale fee (for instance, 30 percent of any recovery up to $10,000; 20 percent of any recovery up to $50,000, etc.).

  • The size of the contingency fee should reflect the amount of work which will be required by the attorney. You might want to ask whether the case is likely to settle quickly and whether government agencies will gather significant amounts of evidence. Be sure you know just what is covered in your agreement. Your state may have rules about maximum contingency fees; check with your state’s bar association.

Flat Fee: You pay the lawyer a set dollar amount for a particular service, like writing a will. If the matter is simple and straightforward, say, an uncontested divorce or a simple bankruptcy filing, many lawyers often charge a flat fee. Make certain to learn just what the flat fee includes.

Hourly Prices: The lawyer charges a set fee per hour. Your final cost will depend on how much time it takes to finish your work. Hourly rates vary based on a lawyer’s expertise and experience. An experienced attorney may charge a higher hourly rate but may complete the work more quickly. Because the hours worked on your case can add up quickly, you need to ask for a written estimate of the amount of hours required to complete your case to get an idea of what your final bill might amount to.

Retainer: Your lawyer may ask you to pay a fee up front. It’s important to review your account from time to time to understand how your money is being spent.

Public Legal Services: Based upon your financial situation, you may qualify for free or low cost legal services through special organizations. By way of example, you may be eligible for free representation in landlord-tenant or divorce cases. Look in your local phone directory for legal services organizations or legal practices associated with accredited law schools.

Pre-paid legal plans. Some organizations offer prepaid legal plans that work like an insurance plan. In exchange for a monthly fee, you receive certain legal services as you need them. However, the fees charged and the services covered vary with each state’s law and the particular plan. Check out any plan carefully to be sure you know what’s covered and whether it makes sense for your situation.

Hiring A Lawyer
Hiring A Lawyer

Keep Good Records

Chances are your lawyer will ask you for documents that are relevant to your case. Keep copies if you give your lawyer the originals. Request copies of all other important documents. When you receive a bill from your lawyer, review it carefully and ask about any charges that are unclear to you.

Class Actions

In a class action, a court determines that a group of people — a class — may have been harmed in a similar manner. You may receive notices asking whether you would like to be part of the lawsuit. Read the notice carefully. If you take no action, you typically become a member of this class by default. If that’s the case, you are bound by the results of the class action litigation; you can not bring your own case; and you won’t have direct control of the lawsuit.

But you could raise some objections about any settlement or the amount of the lawyer’s fees. In case you choose not to become a member of this class, you preserve the right to bring your own case and control it directly. But you’ll need to employ — and pay for — your lawyer and you won’t share in any benefits that may be won in the class actions.

Service

If you’re not happy with the work your lawyer has performed on your behalf, you may fire him or her at any time. In some kinds of cases, you may require the permission of a judge to do this. Weigh the costs and benefits of starting over with a new attorney. Your case may be delayed and may cost you more. Lawyers are subject to state ethics rules and are required to charge reasonable fees; if you believe that your lawyer did not treat you fairly, represent you adequately, or charged you too much, communicate with him and try to work out some resolution.

If trying to resolve the issue directly with your lawyer & is unsuccessful, consider filing a complaint with your local or state bar association. In certain states, arbitration is available to mediate such disputes. Bear in mind that if you are satisfied with the work your lawyer has done for you, communicate that message, too.