Meeting with attorneys when you need to hire one can be an uncomfortable and new experience for a person. Here are some tips to consider when deciding who to hire.
Know Who Will Be Handling Your Case and With Whom You Will Be Communicating
In a "larger" law practice, your initial meeting may be with one of the more senior attorneys. However, your case, including a number of court appearances, may be handled by a different associate attorney in that office. This is not inherently bad, but it can throw the client for a loop when someone they haven't met before is showing up for a court hearing with them. So if you're meeting with an attorney who has other associates or staff members, ask what parts of your case may be delegated out and what will be handled personally by the attorney with whom you're meeting.
Let The Attorney Know What Are Your Biggest Concerns
Clients can always have different priorities in a legal matter. In a civil suit, some clients may care most about a resolution that requires a finding of legal fault while others prioritize a monetary judgment amount. In a divorce, some clients may care most about being awarded as much time with children as possible and others may care most about keeping possession of a marital home. In a criminal case, one client may be most concerned with a potential sentence and another may be most concerned with the collateral consequence a conviction may have on employment, rights to possess a firearm, etc. Bring up these specific concerns to the attorney, discuss them, and then the attorney can tailor their representation to your specific priorities.
Review And Ask Questions About The Fee Agreement
Unless a case is a civil suit with a monetary reward, attorneys will typically ask for a fee payment upfront. Beyond just deciding whether to pay that first fee, make sure to understand how much work by the attorney that will cover, what activity you will be billed for, and if and when there may be additional fees owed. It is not a good situation for either the client or the attorney when in the middle of a case the client is surprised at and unable to pay additional fees. That situation can often be avoided if the client is proactive in asking questions early about the fee structure. And if the attorney is not able to respond with satisfactory answers, then the client knows perhaps they should meet with another attorney before making a financial commitment.
FINAL NOTE: Attorneys are like every other service in life in that you tend to get what you pay for. So clients should not merely look for the lowest quote of legal fees. The attorney who offers that may be a great value or may also have a practice that offsets lower fees with a higher volume of clients, which means less availability and personal attention. Clients should plan their price range and find the attorney they feel most comfortable with within that range.
Know Your Potential Additional Expenses
Related to fee agreements, clients should also discuss additional expenses that could be part of the case. This is particularly important if these expenses are the client's responsibility to pay. Say, for example, you're meeting with an attorney about a criminal charge. The attorney tells you what their fees will be for representation, and paying those attorney fees will exhaust almost all the financial resources you can commit to the case. Often times, to best represent a client in a criminal case will require private investigators or various experts in science, medicine, or police practices. If an expert needs to be hired, but the client has no funds left to do so, the client may be in trouble. Discuss this with an attorney initially so the client and attorney can figure out a financial solution or if the client needs to look to another office so they don't sacrifice potential resources that may help their case.
It Is Not A Bad Thing To Meet With Multiple Attorneys Before Deciding Who To Hire
Unless you have personal experience in the legal field or have found yourself in need of an attorney many times before, you may not know during your first meeting whether what you're hearing from an attorney is reasonable, whether that's about fees, actions that can be taken immediately on a matter, ultimate outcome expectations, etc. A good way to address this is to meet with a few different attorneys, get a consensus opinion about these issues, and see with whom you feel most confident representing your legal interests. Look, it is not fun meeting strangers in their offices to discuss what can be very personal matters. But considering many attorneys do not charge for these initial meetings and the importance of your legal matters, it is worth some time to get a better idea who is the right attorney for you.
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