What To Look For in an Attorney
Determining whether you need a lawyer is not always a simple task. And even after you have decided to hire an attorney, there still remains the problem of choosing the best person to represent you.
Knowing what to look for in an attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Even if you were guaranteed the same result, some attorney-client relationships just work better than others. It is important to find someone you feel comfortable with, as well as someone who also has the skill and determination you need to get a positive result.
The Qualities You Need
There is no secret repository of attorney ratings that will allow you to find the perfect person. The perfect attorney for one client might not work for the next, even if their legal problems are similar. One of the best things you can rely on at this point is your instincts. You will need to work closely with your attorney, so if you have a bad feeling, you might want to keep searching.
One of the first thing you need to determine is whether the attorney has experience handling cases like yours. While an inexperienced attorney might be able to handle your case properly, you are taking a risk by volunteering to be someone’s test subject. Knowing the law, the courts, the process and, in many cases, the opponent is invaluable.
There is no substitute for experience—make sure an attorney has it before choosing him or her to represent you.
Case Results and References
Experience is not the only quality you need to look for. It is possible that an attorney has handled lots of cases just like yours and done a poor job in most of them. References and case results can tell you the difference between a successful attorney and a good one. One of the most beneficial things you can do before hiring an attorney is speaking to a former client or getting a personal reference. Following up with a reference helps you determine which attorneys will watch out for your best interests and which will watch out for their own.
Honesty and Communication
Successful representation requires trust and understanding. If a lawyer gives you a whirlwind pitch, promises you the moon, and leaves you with no clear idea of what is going to happen, run in the other direction.
There aren’t many sure things in the law. If you are promised a specific result, you are either being misled or it is a result you could get without representation.
Your lawyer should be honest and open with you from the first communication to the last. Your lawyer’s ability to communicate, with you and with others, is vital to getting good results.
Some attorneys take on more than they can handle. If an attorney cannot take the time to meet with you and understand your concerns, she or he might not be the right choice for you. An overworked, distracted attorney is not the same as a successful one. A good lawyer knows what she or he can handle and always puts clients first.
You should always discuss fees with your attorney.
Some issues, like personal injury, workers’ compensation and Social Security disability are generally taken on a contingency-fee basis. That means the attorney representing you will get paid as a percentage of what you get in a settlement or verdict.
In other areas of the law, fees may depend on a number of factors. Many attorneys bill by the hour. These billable rates vary from firm to firm. Many others lawyers charge a flat rate for specific types of cases. Definitely understand what your fee structure is like and how much you may owe before signing any representation agreement.
Don’t Waste Time
Finding the right attorney can be a daunting task. The proliferation of attorney advertising has made things easier in some ways, but harder in others. You are no longer stuck choosing a name at random from the phone book, but now you must sift through a lot of information to find the right fit.
Because the vast majority of legal concerns must be handled in a timely manner, you need to make your choice relatively quickly. However daunting the task, you are better off contacting someone—anyone—rather than sitting back and doing nothing. Even the best lawyer in the world can’t stop the clock from ticking.