How to Hire the Right Attorney
By Jessica Johnson, Legal Intern
You’ve heard it over and over again: when you have a legal inquiry or issue, it is important to consult an attorney. But the next question is: how do you hire the right one? The task can seem daunting and confusing, which is why we are here to help.
1. Decide exactly what it is you are seeking to achieve and what you need help with.
If the goals you are hoping to accomplish are clear, you can narrow your search for an attorney and focus your attention on the important issues without wasting time and money on unrelated issues. Define exactly what tasks you need the attorney to help with, so you are sure to find one who practices in that area.
|Some common goals are:
-Review a contract
-Draft a contract to memorialize and clarify an agreement in writing
-Advice on a legal dispute, such as breach of a contract or copyright infringement
-Guidance on forming or incorporating a company, business, or organization
2. Search for an attorney who deals with your particular type of situation.
Keeping your goals in mind, find an attorney who specializes in that area of law or deals regularly with your type of issue. Use resources like the Florida Bar Association, LegalArt, and Legal Connection to find an attorney online. You can then contact the attorney and request an “initial consultation,” a meeting where you first discuss your issue with the attorney and decide whether or not you want to hire him or her. Be aware that some attorneys offer a free initial consultation, while others charge for it.
3. Come to the initial consultation prepared.
Gather materials that will be helpful to the lawyer. Spend some time before the appointment thinking how to best explain your situation so that the attorney will understand the issues. Be sure to include all relevant information the attorney will need to analyze your situation.
|Some common materials that you should consider bringing:
-List of important people involved in the issue
-A calendar with dates marked down, to show the order of events chronologically
-Documents (contracts, lease agreements, accident reports, etc.)
-Past Correspondence, like letters, faxes, and emails
4. Ask questions
Don’t be shy about asking your attorney to answer all of your questions. To determine if an attorney is appropriate for your specific situation, you must know his or her familiarity with the area of law, expectations, and availability.
|Some common questions to ask are:
-Do you specialize in a particular area of law?
-How many times a year do you handle situations similar to mine?
-Are you familiar with the common legal procedures and requirements in this area?
-How much time does it usually take to achieve the goals I am seeking to accomplish?
-Are there any other expenses outside of your fee that I will be responsible for?
-What methods do you use to inform clients of the status of their issue?
-Are you easy to reach? Do you prefer to communicate via e-mail or telephone?
-Are you available after hours?
5. Understand exactly how and when your attorney will bill you.
Ask the attorney to be very clear and precise when explaining exactly what services he or she will charge you for, and when.
|Some common billing methods are:
-Hourly rate: the attorney will bill you for the amount of time he spends on your issue.
-Flat rate: the attorney will charge you one price for all of his work.
-Contingency fee: the attorney will not charge you any money unless he wins money for you. His “fee” will be a percentage of the recovery. This method is usually found in litigation, especially personal injury disputes.
-Retainer fee: an up-front “down payment” from which future costs are deducted.
-Pro Bono: the attorney will lend his legal services at no charge. Even in a pro bono case the client will likely be responsible for filing fees, deposition costs, and other costs of the case.
-Reduced-rate: the attorney will offer you a lower price than he usually charges, either as a flat rate or an hourly rate.
-Barter basis: the attorney will exchange his legal services for a piece of art work.