How To Engage a Lawyer
Whom to Call?If you decide you need a lawyer, start asking around to friends and family to find a recommendation. Also ask your other advisors--accountant, bank officer, financial planner, business associates, etc. Your best chances of finding someone who you can work with is by getting a referral from someone you know. Of course, searching the internet and specialized legal websites like this one will also lead you to great attorneys.
Make the CallCall. Call more than one if you want. If you have a name, talk to them specifically, or leave a voicemail indicating you have a legal matter and want to discuss it. If you don't have a name, ask the receptionist who answers to give you to someone handling your type of matter (i.e. real estate, contract dispute, etc.). Don't leave an opening messages with all the specific details of your matter, just be concise about your issue (i.e. I have a real estate matter with a landlord and tenant). When you speak to someone, get the details about fees, retainers, billing methods, experience, suggestions, etc. Ask about how fees are charged--hourly, flat fee, contingent on winning your case, etc.
Engage the LawyerMost states require lawyers to send engagement/fee letters. They set out the terms of the representation--basically what you pay, when fees are due, retainers, etc. If you accept the terms, typically you'll sign and send the fee agreement back with the retainer (if one is requested).
Keep in mind that if a lawyer is part of a firm or group of lawyers, there maybe additional lawyers or paralegals who work on your matter. This serves several purposes--to keep costs down because work is done more efficiently and to make sure you get the best services--we are not experts in all areas of the law and each have our own specialties.
Provide Your Lawyer with InformationRemember that your lawyer knows nothing at this point except what you have told them in your initial calls or meetings. Ask what you can provide to help the situation along, get them up to speed, etc. The more you can provide in a nice concise package, the better prepared your lawyer will be to deal with your issue, and the less it will cost you in fees in the long run. If something needs attention by a certain date, say so clearly up front.
When your lawyer asks for documents or calls, you can manage expenses by promptly responding. You save money because they lawyer doesn't have to open up the file and become reacquainted with the issues 3 weeks later when you get around to calling. The best way to keep your matter moving and manage expenses is to respond promptly to requests for documents or information.
Be honest. Your lawyer cannot properly advocate for you if you do not tell them the whole truth.