12 Questions To Ask Your Potential Lawyer

Ask the question

Lawyers are no different than other people. There are good ones and bad ones just like there are good cooks and bad cooks. You can tell a bad cook by the taste of the food…how can you tell a bad lawyer? You can’t taste what the lawyer does…with some lawyers you can’t even see what they do…

A lawyer sells skill, experience, knowledge, and time. The lawyer has knowledge from training in law school, from reading about changes in the law, and from experience as a lawyer. Unfortunately, there is no sure way to tell if the lawyer you choose is competent.

One way to select a lawyer is by recommendation of a satisfied client. Be careful though, since no two cases are the same, even if your friend’s case was successful, it is no guarantee that your case will be successful. Also, lawyers have different personalities. The lawyer who works well with your friend may not get along with you. A satisfied client might be a good way for you to know that the lawyer has some knowledge and experience in the particular area of law that you need help with.

Another way to choose a lawyer is by reading advertisements, articles, an Internet Web site, or other information about a lawyer or written by the lawyer. In this way you can find out what areas of the law the lawyer has experience in. If the lawyer has written books or articles, you may want to read them to see how the lawyer discusses situations similar to yours. You might also contact a bar association to ask for a referral to a lawyer. Make sure the lawyer is experienced.

Here is a handy checklist of basic questions to ask before you hire a lawyer:
# What is your experience in this field?

# Have you handled matters like mine?

# What are the possible outcomes of my case?

# What are my alternatives in resolving the matter?

# Approximately how long will it take to resolve?

# Do you recommend mediation or arbitration?

# What are your rates and how often will you bill me?

# What is a ballpark figure for the total bill, including fees and expenses?

# How will you keep me informed of progress?

# What kind of approach will you take to resolve the matter – aggressive and unyielding, or will you be more inclined to reach a reasonable settlement?

# Who else in the office will be working on my case?

# Can junior attorneys or paralegals in the office handle some of the substantive legal work at a lower rate?

Make sure the person in charge of the office is a lawyer. Notaries, consultants, or others who are not licensed as a lawyer will sometimes pretend to be a lawyer. If you are in the office, look for the lawyer’s certificate on the wall. Since some licensed lawyers do not display their certificates, you can ask if the person is a lawyer. Look at the business card from the office. See if it says that the person is a lawyer or attorney.

If you are unhappy with your lawyer, you can change and go to another lawyer asking to have your case transferred. This may not be a good idea unless you are very unhappy since changing lawyers will usually cost additional fees and may increase the time needed finish a case

Do You Really Need a Lawyer?

Need a Lawyer

Sometimes it’s a no-brainer, such as when you get sued or when you’re arrested or charged with a crime. But keep in mind that people hire lawyers for advice and expertise all of the time, in all kinds of situations. While you may be able to get through a legal problem without hiring a lawyer, you should always remember that when you represent yourself, you might have a “fool for a client,” as the saying goes.

One of the first things to ask yourself in deciding if you should consult an attorney is: “What’s at stake?” When your finances or liberties are in serious jeopardy, the obvious answer is to get legal help. But what is serious?

An ordinary parking summons is a brush with the law, but you need not consult with an attorney to pay the fine or even to fight it. However, if you’ve accumulated a number of unpaid parking tickets and a warrant has been issued for your arrest, you would probably want to hire a lawyer to help you best resolve the situation, and perhaps save you money or even keep you out of jail.

In good times as well as bad, individuals and businesses rely on their lawyer’s advice to understand and secure legal rights and financial interests. Lawyers help clients with estate planning and business negotiations, strategies and transactions. With good legal advice, clients are better prepared to comply with and navigate through the complex mazes of governmental rules and regulations.

It is also a lot easier to rest easily after consulting with experienced lawyers for important undertakings such as tax and estate planning, drafting wills and trusts, negotiating business deals and even pursuing personal family matters such as adopting children.

Before You Hire a Lawyer

It never hurts to talk to a lawyer, and it may be the best thing you can do if you think you have a legal problem that you can’t resolve yourself. If you’re persistent, you can probably arrange a free consultation with a lawyer who will talk to you on the matter.

Short of hiring a lawyer, though, you may want to look at alternative sources to resolve your legal issues.

    • Ask for references. You want to talk to people who could comment on the lawyer’s skills and trustworthiness.
    • Ask for a copy of a firm brochure and promotional materials. If they are available, crosscheck these materials against other sources and references.
    • Ask to be provided with a copy of the lawyer’s retainer agreement and have it explained to you before decide on retaining the lawyer or the lawyer’s law firm. You may end up paying a lot of money to the lawyer so make sure you understand what you are signing up for.
    • Use your common sense and gut instincts to evaluate the remaining lawyers on your list. You’ll want to be comfortable with the lawyer you hire. You will also want to choose the lawyer who you think will do the best job for you

Public Defenders Advantages and Disadvantages

Public Defenders

If you’re accused of a crime and your liberty is somehow threatened (for example, with potential jail time), you’re entitled under the United States constitution to be represented by an attorney.

It’s important to have a criminal defense lawyer to represent you as soon as possible in the process, ideally at arraignment. A criminal defense attorney can:

– Challenge probable cause for arrest
– Negotiate plea bargains with prosecutors
– Discuss the pros and cons of going to trial
– Discuss the advantages and disadvantages
of pleading guilty instead of going to trial

Getting A Public Defender Appointed

If you can’t afford to hire a lawyer from the private legal community, the court can appoint a government-paid lawyer called a “public defender“- to represent you.

In order to have a public defender, you’ll have to convince the judge that you can’t afford to hire an attorney on your own. The judge may ask you to fill out a form detailing your financial resources, assets, income and debts. You may also need to provide the court with documentation such as paystubs to prove your income level.

Standards for how much money you can make and still qualify for a public defender vary greatly from state to state, and sometimes from one court to another.

In rural areas and in courts with meager resources, there might not be public defenders on staff with the court to represent you. In that case, the court will usually appoint a private attorney at public expense, or assign a private attorney from a volunteer attorney list to represent you.

If you give inaccurate information to the court in an effort to get a public defender appointed, you may be charged with the crime of falsifying information.

If the court decides you make too much money to qualify for a public defender, you’ll want to immediately start looking for a private attorney to defend you.

Disadvantages Of A Public Defender

One downside of being represented by a public defender is that these government-paid lawyers often have a huge overload of cases, and cannot devote a lot of time to any one case. As a result, you may have little or no access to your lawyer except during actual court hearings.

Public defenders also often lack office equipment and adequate research access, and can’t afford to hire investigators to properly flesh out your case.

A public defender also won’t be able to assist you with related civil law or administrative matters. You’ll need to hire a separate attorney to help you with these concerns.

Advantages of A Public Defender

Public defenders work with the same judges and prosecutors day in and day out, and get to know their personal quirks, peeves and tolerances. They also see the same police officers testifying, and know who’s likely to be a bad (and good) witness.

A public defender is likely to be very efficient at sizing up your case and presenting an acceptable plea bargain deal to the prosecutor and judge. As a result, you may be done with the criminal process and on with the rest of your life sooner than if you were represented by a private attorney.

Second Guessing Your Public Defender

Once you’ve been appointed a public defender, it’s often very difficult, if not impossible, to have your attorney replaced with another public defender.

If you’re having doubts about advice your public defender gives you, make an appointment for a “second opinion” consultation with a private criminal defense attorney. Most lawyers are willing to consult for a small fee, and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your public defender is on track.

Reporting a Lawyer for Ethics Violations

Reporting a Lawyer

Lawyers are bound by a code of ethics that governs their professional conduct. While the majority of lawyers adhere to these standards, most states have appointed a Disciplinary Counsel to investigate and act on violations when they occur.

Typically, Disciplinary Counsel only investigate grievances that are brought to their attention via a complaint. Complaints may concern ethical violations that clients feel the lawyer has committed. Other practicing lawyers can also file complaints. Common consumer complaints include:

* Failure of the lawyer to communicate with the client
* Lawyer neglects to return the client’s documents
* Failure of the lawyer to safeguard client property
* Conflict of interest
* Misrepresentation
* Funds missing/fee disputes
* Non-professional conduct in handling of cases

Filing a Complaint

If a problem occurs with a lawyer, the client must file a complaint to the counsel in the state in which the lawyer is licensed. Generally, the process for filing a complaint involves either filling out a form provided by the Bar Association in the particular state, or writing a detailed letter. The detailed letter should contain the lawyer’s name, address, phone number, the circumstances under which the lawyer was hired and a description of the problem. Some states request additional documentation to be filed with the complaint.

In some states, a complaint may be filed by calling a hotline.
Complaint Review and Resolution

In most cases, a board of lawyers and non-lawyers reviews the complaint. If there might be some ethical violation, the lawyer in question is usually provided with a copy of the complaint and given 10-25 days (depending on the state), to respond to the complaint. In some states, clients are given a chance to comment on their lawyer’s response and to request that an investigation be opened. The case will either be dismissed if no evidence of a violation is found, or it will remain open. If the violation is found to be minor, a phone call or letter to the lawyer can readily resolve the issue. A hearing will be set up if the violation(s) are of a serious nature, based on the review of the board.

Confidentiality

Most information is kept confidential until it’s released to the lawyer in question. Some states don’t allow anonymous cases because documentation is vital to the investigation. Disciplinary counsel needs the signature of the person filing the complaint on the complaint form or letter in case there is a need to testify in court. Some states allow anonymous complaints if the issues affect the general public, or if the board itself is able to bring the issue against the lawyer without further evidence from a client. If the state does allow anonymous complaints, a request for anonymity must be included in a detailed letter, on the form in which the complaint is filed or during the phone call.

Many state attorney general offices and other agencies provide consumer protection departments. (But it’s not usually a good idea to try to gain an advantage in a legal dispute over adversarial parties by threatening to contact a government agency if they don’t comply with your demands. It is possible that such action could be characterized as attempted extortion on your part.)

The Main Goal Behind Hiring An Attorney

Hiring An Attorney

Whether you’ve been injured by another in an accident, on the job, by poor medical care, or by any negligence, the goal of hiring an attorney is to restore justice to an unjust situation—to get what is deserved. Here in your city, accidents occur and medical procedures go awry every single day. It is up to those who have been wronged to seek a capable and dedicated lawyer. Medical malpractice and personal injuries are always important topics when it comes to law, and these days having skilled and experienced attorneys to represent you has never been more important, especially in your city.

Medical Malpractice

A proper settlement can be reached if you have a competent attorney whose one and only goal is to get the plaintiff what is deserved. Many attorneys focus on merely covering the costs of the failed medical care. Rather, it should be the mission of the attorney to get additional compensation due to the pain and suffering of the patient, as well as, the family.

If the person who was poorly treated is/was your family’s financial provider, it is absolutely essential to seek reimbursement. You and your family should not be punished financially, and your children should not lose out on opportunities as a result of poor medical care. Be firm and hire an attorney that understands the severity of the situation.

The pain and suffering you or your family experienced due to careless and irresponsible medical treatment can never be truly rectified. However, by achieving compensation for your family, an attorney can give you piece of mind knowing that justice has been served and your family will be taken care of.

Importance of experienced attorneys in cases of personal injury

Personal injury cases can cover anything from car accidents to the use of unsafe products or unsafe work conditions. Personal injury cases very often include not only physical injury, but also emotional injury or emotional distress, such as threats, post-traumatic stress, and physical injury caused by stress. Hiring a lawyer that has worked on hundreds of different personal injury cases is the only surefire way to gain fair retribution.  An experienced lawyer will gain insight from many avenues of expertise by teaming with physicians, psychologists, engineers, and other experts. If you have been wronged and injury has resulted, it is imperative that you consult an attorney as soon as possible. Texas state law only gives those with personal injury cases two years to file their claim within the state courts.

Law firm that has the experience

Many Law Firm is an experienced law firm that focuses time specifically in the vein of medical malpractice law and personal injury law . Law firm truly cares about clients, and has the client’s best interests in mind when building a case. They receive compensation only when you do. It is extremely imperative that you are able to trust the lawyer that represents you.

How, and How Much, Do Lawyers Charge?

Lawyers Charge

How much are you willing to spend?

Legal services aren’t cheap, how much are you willing to spend? What are typical fee arrangements for legal services? How much can you expect to pay? What about expenses and court costs? How can you keep track of fees for legal services? What about free or low-cost legal services? What should you do if you are charged with a crime but can’t afford a lawyer?

When you’re shopping for legal services, always ask potential attorneys to fully explain their fees and billing practices. Don’t hesitate to ask detailed questions and don’t be embarrassed. A lawyer’s willingness to discuss fees is an important indicator of how he or she treats clients.

That are typical fee arrangements? Standard payment arrangements an attorney may suggest include:

Hourly rates, Flat fees, Retainers, Contingent fees

Hourly rates are the most common arrangement. Here, the attorney gets paid an agreed-upon hourly rate for the hours he or she works on a client’s case or matter until it’s resolved.

How much is an hourly rate?

It depends on each attorney’s experience, operating expenses, and the location of his or her practice. Cheaper is not necessarily better when it comes to your legal protection. A more expensive lawyer with a lot of experience may be able to handle a complex problem more quickly. Also, an experienced attorney will be able to better estimate how many lawyer hours a particular matter will take to resolve.

Flat Fees

Where a legal matter is simple and well defined, lawyers typically charge a flat fee. Examples of flat fee matters include wills, uncontested divorces and simple bankruptcy filings. If an attorney suggests or has advertised a flat fee, be sure you understand exactly what that fee will and will not cover. The flat fee might not include expenses such as filing fees.

Retainer Fee

A retainer fee is typically, but not always, an advance payment on the hourly rate for a specific case. The lawyer puts the retainer in a special trust account and deducts from that account the cost of services as they accrue. During the course of legal representation, clients should review periodic billing statements reflecting amounts deducted from the retainer. Most retainers are non-refundable unless labeled “unreasonable” by a court. If you decide to drop a case that your lawyer has worked on before the retainer has been exhausted, you may forfeit the remainder.

Contingent Fees

In certain types of cases, attorneys work on a contingent fee basis. “Contingent” means that the attorney takes no fee from the client, but gets a percentage typically one-third of the settlement or money judgment. Contingent fee arrangements are typical for plaintiff’s counsel in automobile and accident litigation, medical malpractice and other personal injury cases, as well as in debt collection cases.

Courts set limits on the contingency fees a lawyer can receive from personal injury suits. Of course, lawyers and clients are free to negotiate contingency fees less than the standard one-third. Contingent fee arrangements in certain kinds of cases such as divorce, criminal cases, or child custody cases are prohibited.

How much can you expect to pay?

Rates for legal fees vary based on location, experience of the lawyer, and the nature of the matter. Believe it or not, rates may vary anywhere.