The layperson is not used to the sometimes mysterious world of lawyers and can succumb to the catchiest jingle or easiest number to remember when choosing a lawyer. My goal is to provide you with the tools to select the right attorney. These are the questions to ask and the answers to listen for.
How many cases do you currently have?
Many people would likely assume that more cases equals a more successful and competent attorney. This logic is flawed in many ways. You want a lawyer who is focused on your case. That being said, you also don't want a lawyer who is unable to secure clients, as that may also be a red flag. What you are looking for is a lawyer with a case load somewhere in the middle. You want a lawyer who is selective on the cases they take, and ensures they always have a manageable case load. You would want to follow this question with questions about the support staff, such as how many paralegals does your firm have or haw many cases does each lawyer handle. Your goal with this question is to make sure this lawyer is not just running a mill, pushing out cases in bulk each month. Many of the people who choose one of the big name, highly advertised attorneys find themselves with unreturned phone calls and a settlement that is far from what was expected. You want to find out as much about a lawyer's case load as possible.
How do you decide how much to spend on a case?
This question is one rarely asked by clients, which is surprising. Most people who seek an attorney to handle an injury case will hire that lawyer on a contingency fee (i.e. the lawyer will take a percentage at the end). Most clients hear this and think, "I won't have to pay a dime." What clients should be considering is that the lawyer they choose will be betting his or her own money on the success of your case. This means you need an attorney with the financial resources to make decisions based on what will benefit your case and not on whether he can afford it. Most people assume lawyers can afford any costs, but the reality is many attorneys make decisions to save case costs because they cant afford them. Experts in legal cases can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. It is imperative that you ask any potential attorney if they have the capital to spend on your case, as it will be needed. This may take more than asking one cost-related question. Go visit their office and take a look around. Do they have enough staff, is the office in a nice location, or do they even have an office at all? This will help you gauge how financially stable this attorney is, and if they can afford to take your case the distance, if need be.
How do you select a case?
A good lawyer will ask you the tough questions. It's not because they don't believe you, but they are anticipating the arguments any good defense lawyer will be making. You want a lawyer who is selective on the cases they choose. They ask the tough questions to get to the bottom of every case before taking on a new client. An attorney who is quick to sign a client without fully digging into the background of the case is likely overworked or desperate. Neither scenario will make for a strong advocate in your case. Make sure to choose an attorney who doesn't take signing up a new client lightly. You want an attorney who believes in every case they're taking on.
What difficulties do you foresee with my case?
You want an honest attorney. The phrase 'honest attorney' may sound to you like an oxymoron, but there are a lot of good, hard working, honest lawyers out there. However, there are some attorneys who will do what it takes to get you on board. Asking an attorney about the negative aspects in your case will help you see if they will speak openly and honestly about any potential hurdles. This also shows that your attorney is already anticipating the opposition's moves and what they might offer in response.