Maybe you have been injured in an accident. Maybe you are facing bankruptcy. Maybe you and your ex-spouse are fighting over child support or custody.
There are a myriad of situations where you may need the assistance of an attorney, and there may be hundreds or even thousands of attorneys practicing in your area. How do you decide who to hire?
Here are the essential factors you should consider when hiring an attorney.
1. Qualified in Your State
If you end up in court, you will need a legal representative who is a member of the Bar in your jurisdiction. That means you need a lawyer who is licensed to practice law and appear in court in the state where you must appear.
You can get legal advice from a lawyer who lives anywhere. However, if your most trusted advisor lives in another state, he or she will need to retain local counsel to advocate for you in the locale in question.
Hiring a local attorney has other advantages as well. An attorney licensed in your state and acquainted with the area will know the local laws. They will also know the people in the justice system, like opposing counsel, prosecutors, and judges.
These relationships are valuable when negotiating settlements and plea deals.
2. Experienced in the Area Where You Need Help
You don’t go to a chiropractor when you need brain surgery. Similarly, you shouldn’t retain a family law attorney if you are involved with a contract dispute with a business partner, or you have been the victim of medical malpractice.
You want a lawyer with a track record of helping people in your exact situation. If you have been injured in an auto crash, you should be hiring a car accident attorney
When you research legal counsel, check out their website: Do they practice in the area of law where you need assistance? Do they have testimonials from people like you?
Talk to recent clients who can attest to the results this lawyer has produced in the past. Check out online news or court websites to see how they have handled other cases and their record of success.
3. Within Your Budget
Lawyer fees vary widely, depending on the attorney’s individual reputation and length of experience, location, and the nature of the matter involved.
If you are suing for personal injury, your lawyer may take a contingency fee or a portion of your eventual award or settlement. That means you do not have to pay anything upfront.
Other lawyers may charge a flat fee for services ranging from simple divorces, DUIs, or speeding tickets.
On the other end of the spectrum are lawyers who work in large firms in cosmopolitan areas. Attorneys who practice mergers and acquisitions and corporate law in cities like Houston or New York command fees of over a thousand dollars an hour!
Talk to a prospective representative about your budget before hiring them. There are excellent attorneys available at all price ranges, especially for situations like car accidents, wills, and setting up a business.
4. Someone Who Is Responsive
Being involved in a legal proceeding is highly stressful. It may affect your job, your bank account, and your family. You may run into unexpected challenges while your lawyer is working out the final resolution.
You want an attorney who will call you back right away. You want someone who is reachable, even after business hours.
You also want someone who can explain to you complicated legal issues and proceedings in a way you understand. If you have questions, they are there to give you answers.
You do not want to be kept waiting when your livelihood and more are on the line. You also want someone who will respond to your concerns. Lawyers may deal with situations like yours every day, but for you, it is critical.
Hire a lawyer who treats your case with the importance it deserves.
5. A Reliable Team
Of course, you will rarely be a lawyer’s only client.
They may be representing many others just like you. There will be times when he or she is in court or with another client and can not take your call immediately. They may even get sick on occasion!
Often, the best lawyer is a member of a team. They may have partners with whom they collaborate on cases and share knowledge. They may have associates who help with research and assist in aspects of the proceeding.
Ideally, even sole practitioners have a support system. They may have an assistant or receptionist who takes messages and helps with court filings.
When you interview potential attorneys, ask about their support teams. You want to be assured that they have someone who helps with administrative duties, organization, and bookkeeping. You want the lawyer to have his or her mind on your case!
6. Someone You Can Work With
A good lawyer will help you through some of the most personal and difficult situations in your life. They will be there for you when you are worried about your family, your bank account, and your job.
You may have to share very personal details of your life with them. You may need to rely on their advice about difficult decisions that will affect your future.
An effective attorney-client relationship depends on trust. You need to be able to rely on your lawyer and feel comfortable with them.
Often this is a case of chemistry. Some people just get along better than others.
In other cases, you may feel better working with someone you know or identify with. For example, some women prefer working with female attorneys on their divorces or in domestic violence cases.
Choose someone with whom you can talk freely and turn to in a crisis. Your lawyer may eventually turn into a long term trusted advisor and life long friend
Hiring an Attorney: Find the One Who is Right for You
Hiring an attorney is a crucial decision that can dramatically impact your life. You need to find someone who is good at what they do, who has helped people like you successfully, and who you can work with. It will make all the difference in winning your case.
Check out the rest of our blog for valuable news and tips on navigating life’s challenges.