Choosing a lawyer to serve as your legal representative in a dispute or negotiation is a big and important decision. After all, your lawyer, in addition to advising you, acts as your face and mouthpeice. Your attorney should be someone who understands the law relating to your needs, who explains things to your understanding and satisfaction, and who will fight for your rights and interests .
Here are 10 tips to remember in choosing a lawyer:
1. Find a Lawyer Competent in the Applicable Field of Law.
There are all kinds of lawyers out there. In fact, one common misconception people have is they assume that, because someone is a lawyer, he or she is well-versed in all areas of the law. While lawyers are exposed to different areas of the law in law school, most of them focus on a particular area once they are in an established practice. Bottom line, you don’t necessarily want a criminal defense lawyer handling your estate planning, or vica versa! Seek out a lawyer with the expertise you require.
2. Referrals Are a Good Way to Go
Because there are so many different areas of law, it often helps to consult an attorney about hiring an attorney. That is, if you are in need of representation and you know a lawyer or know someone who is married or related to or knows a lawyer, inquire with that attorney. Undoubtedly he or she will recognize the type of lawyer you need and will most likely be able to refer you to a few. The advantage here is you will get referred to the right lawyer; one who is known and trusted by the lawyer you consulted; and you will have been introduced to the lawyer by a friend or colleague, rather than being a stranger.
3. Shop Around
Lawyers are no different than other professional service providers in that there is a wide selection to choose from. Don’t accept one lawyer’s opinion or terms of representation if you are not satisfied. Much like choosing a bank or real estate agent, make sure you shop around until you are satisfied with your choice or options.
4. Research Your Prospective Attorney
Before retaining an attorney, make sure to do a little due diligence. Don’t be afraid to kick the tires and look under the hood before you hire your lawyer or law firm. Local County and city bar associations can be of assistance in researching an attorney. http://www.martindale.com/ is a website that rates lawyers. Check out your prospective lawyer or law firm’s website. Check with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel to see if your prospective lawyer has disciplinary proceedings pending or has been repreimanded by the Ohio Supreme Court. See http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/odc/default.asp.
5. Find a Fee Arrangement that Works for You or Your Business
Lawyers are retained according to varying types of fee arrangements. Some lawyers are paid a lump sum retainer to perform a discrete job or duty. Others charge by the hour. Some lawyers agree to contingency fee arrangements by which the lawyer is only paid if your case is successful and only from the proceeds of the litigation. Lawyers charging contingency fees will also sometimes agree to a blended fee by which a reduced hourly fee or retainer is provided as well as a precentage of potential recovery. There are numerous fee arrangements. Make sure you are familiar with the one you are being charged and make sure it is appropriate for your situation.
6. Meet and Talk With Your Lawyer
It is not uncommon for a lawyer’s assistant or an associate to handle new client meetings or case intake functions. As the client, however, you should always make sure you actually meet with your lawyer face-to-face before retaining him or her. The attorney-client relationship should always begin with a face-to-face meeting.
7. Speak Up
When considering hiring an attorney be sure to tell your story: the good and the bad. Depending on the type of representation being sought, oftentimes the lawyer is considering his or her willingeness to accept the representation. In a sense, sometimes the attorney is interviewing the client. Make sure you tell your entire story and inform the lawyer of all relevant information. Of course, you have to be honest. Sometimes getting a lawyer to take your case can be difficult. If you are organized and knowledgeable, at least you will be in a position to effectively communicate with your prospective lawyer.
8. Think It Over
If a lawyer is pressuring you to immediately sign a representation agreement with him or her, don’t feel obligated to sign. You have every right to think it over. Hiring an attorney is a big decision. Think it over if you have to.
9. Get a Second Opinion
If a lawyer, for whatever reason, decides not to take your case, get a second legal opinion. Different lawyers with different levels of experience and knowledge of the law will evaluate your case differently. Indeed, every case that has ever been filed has two sides who feel differently about the facts and/or the law. Don’t be discouraged if an atorney rejects your case at first. Get a second opinion.
10. Mke Sure you Can Get Along With and Trust Your Lawyer
The attorney-client relationship is a most sacred one. Make sure you get along with and can trust your lawyer. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it is not uncommon to find litigants and clients who are not satisfied with their legal representatives, or who don’t get a long with them. This is why meeting your attorney face-to-face is important. As the two of you will be working together toward a common goal, it is important that you and your attorney get along and work well together.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Rather, it is just a few tips to remember when seeking to hire an attorney.