It is important to invest time and effort in the process of choosing an attorney, the same way you would a contractor or accountant. When you work with an attorney, you are going to share confidential information with them and you are going to trust them to give you proper legal advice and help you through your situation. Because of their experience, you can expect the outcome to be better than what you can achieve on your own.
From qualifications and area of law to cost and location, there are many things you need to consider when choosing an attorney who will help you with your legal issues. We discussed these with Charles Emmett Harris IV – a professional in the industry and came to our own conclusions on what makes a good lawyer.
Below are 10 factors you need to have in mind when looking for a lawyer.
- Long or short term
Before you start the process of looking for the right lawyer online or asking friends and family for recommendations, you have to first look at your needs first. Why are you looking for an attorney? Do you have a legal problem you can’t deal with on your own? Would a professional help you?
After you are clear on why you need an attorney, figure out whether you are going to need one for the short or long term. This is going to be determined by the work you want to be done. Do you want an attorney who is going to provide you with a current legal situation? It might be a good idea to get a short-term hire or a consultation. If you want an attorney who is going to handle all of your legal affairs indefinitely, then it might be a good idea to go with a long-term attorney who you can call anytime you need their help suggests Charles Emmett Harris IV.
- Area of law
Lawyers usually specialize in a specific area of law because it is a large field, which is similar to medicine. Some have specialized in business law, while others pursue real estate law, intellectual property, family, nosiness, employment, immigration, criminal, bankruptcy, accident/injury, or civil rights law.
There are some lawyers who work on a wide range of situations and are known as general practice attorneys. Smaller communities tend to see such lawyers because there is limited help in the area.
If the situation is specific to your business, it is best to go with someone experienced in corporate law. If you need someone to help you settle your loved one’s estate, then the best fit is an estate planning lawyer.
- Are They Highly Regarded?
When hiring someone to offer advice or perform a service, you want to make sure they are good at what they do. This can involve talking to people they have worked with in the past. Another option is seeking out referral services online who are going to pair you with a locally certified lawyer to help you with your legal issues
Personal recommendations are also a good option because you are getting them from your friends and family who have worked with an attorney.
Laws vary from one state to the next. It is a good idea to choose someone from your area who is well familiarized with the legal requirements of that region or your business.
If you are in a rural area that has limited resources, then consider using other methods of contact such as email or phone, when discussing smaller issues. If it is a big legal issue, then it is important to choose someone who is close to you. This will result in a face-to-face relationship with trust.
Apart from looking for someone who has specialized in the area of law you need help with, it is important to choose someone who has experience dealing with cases like yours. You can find this information by asking them or check out their site if they have one. It is good to choose an attorney with more experience because they are very valuable for your case. If their experience matches your legal situation, it is the perfect match.
You should interview attorneys before hiring them because you will get the chance to find more about them and their past cases. You should ask as many questions as possible because that is how you are going to learn more about their experience, whether they are good at communication, etc.
- Size of the firm
The size of the law firm can have an impact on your choice. Larger firms tend to be more established and have greater resources, but you have to pay more.
Smaller firms are less expensive and maybe more personal, but they might have limited services if they have not specialized in the area you want help with.
- Cost and billing
The cost is going to play a big part when choosing an attorney. The amount you are ready to spend depends on you. Research and find more information by asking the attorney for a quote, and their billing. It could be a flat rate, an hourly, fee, a negotiable fee, a contingency fee, or even a retainer.
Ask them whether the fees include expenses (such as filing, shipping, and travel) because there are some that bill separately because they don’t treat these expenses the same.
If you are not happy with the quote you received or it is way over your budget, shop around and find the same information. When you choose a lawyer or firm, make sure they are clear on their cost terms. Make sure you talk with the lawyer about these issues so you don’t get any surprises. You can even confirm all the costs in a written agreement.
There are many professional things you need to keep in mind when you choose a lawyer, but it is also important to look at their character. Look for someone trustworthy and feel comfortable being around and working with. Respect is very important. If you find a lawyer ready to exercise good judgment, work hard for you, and be thoughtful in the process, then you have yourself a very valuable asset.
Does the lawyer you want have enough time to work on your legal issue? Can they start on your case immediately? How is their caseload? You need to ask these questions if you want to work with that lawyer and regret it later. If you find that they are overworked, it might be better to look for another lawyer ready to attend to your case.
Communications is also important because it goes together with availability and compatibility. Between meetings and paperwork, there is the tendency of falling out of touch. It is important to begin with establishing proactive communication as you start working together. Let the lawyer know your preferred form of communication and hours. This will ensure you are both on the same page. This helps avoid missed phone calls and meetings. Agree on check-in times where you get to ask questions and discuss updates.
A good attorney is one who takes their time to explain complicated legal matters in a simple way you can easily understand, then provide you with the different options or solutions you need to look at. Then deciding on a plan of action.