It doesn’t matter what kind of lawyer you’re hiring or what you might need one for—there are several questions you should always ask before you cement your partnership.
Having the right lawyer for the right situation is vital to your case running as smoothly as it possibly can. Asking the following questions will allow you to see if you’re compatible, and if your working relationship will be both profitable and enjoyable.
What experience do you have in handling situations like mine?
The last thing you want when you’re dealing with a personal case is a lawyer who has no experience working with your particular situation. No two cases are identical, but some lawyers will be better suited for your needs than others. It’s your prerogative to verify that they are qualified enough to make you feel comfortable placing your case in their hands.
What are the possible outcomes of my case?
No one should go into a situation completely blind. You’ll have a preferred outcome to your case, of course, but there are always other potential results. Some people might rather go into a situation with their eyes shut and hope for the best, but being ill-prepared for alternate outcomes will only lead to nasty surprises and disappointment if the case doesn’t go according to plan.
Your lawyer will know all of the possible end scenarios, and he should be willing and ready to share them with you. Ask his opinions, and explore all of the options together before you decide that he’s the one to best represent your case.
Optimism is one thing, but being realistically prepared for any outcome will get you much farther than blind hope.
What kind of approach will you take to handle my case?
Even if your lawyer is talented and meets all of your qualifications, you need to make sure their personality matches yours. If they tend to take a more aggressive, unyielding approach but you’d rather they approached it with a gentle touch, you might want to find a different lawyer. Every lawyer has their own style, and you’ll need to determine what will make you most comfortable.
A good lawyer will have a sense of what each case calls for, so you might have to compromise on the approach you take if you’re unversed in how the settlement of cases works. But it doesn’t matter how much experience you or they have—if their personality is too abrasive or timid for you, find someone else to handle the matter.
What can I expect to pay for your services?
Every case will cost something different, and every firm has different rates. If you’re paying for a defense offense case (or the case of Roy Pearson and the $67 million pants), you’ll likely pay more than if you’re writing your will with the help of an estate lawyer. Calgary and its icy, dangerous winters probably has more need for accident lawyers than a small, tight-knit community in Southern Idaho, which will make the services more in demand and sometimes drive prices down. Some firms are more flexible than others, and some will even make house calls with no extra charge.
Make sure you not only inquire about the fees that go directly to the lawyer (whether you’re paying by hour, a flat fee, or by contingency), but other less obvious expenses. You might also owe fees for a paralegal’s services, court costs, and other miscellaneous fees.
The most important thing is to know up front how much you can expect to pay for their services. You don’t want to be surprised when the case is closed and the balance comes back bigger than you were expecting.
Who will be primarily responsible for handling my case?
You might not know that attorneys are not the only ones that work on your case—there are many people working behind the scenes. Paralegals are responsible for all of the legwork that keeps a law office running. They file documents, conduct interviews, research, take notes in court, and keep you up to date on the status of your case.
Make sure you know who will be dealing with your legal work, and that you know what your attorney will be handling directly as opposed to what work will be given to paralegals or junior attorneys. If you want direct communication with your lawyer instead of going through a paralegal or assistant, make that clear.
Choosing the right lawyer can make all the difference in your case. Do your research, ask the right questions, and don’t be afraid to shop around until you find the lawyer that best fits your needs.
Georgiah Cook has a passion for finance and accounting. She has recently taken an interest in law, and has learned a lot from research with companies like Housecall Wills and Estates. Georgiah also loves biking, hiking, and people-watching at the beach.