Choosing a lawyer can be a daunting task, especially for those unfamiliar in dealing with legal issues. When purchasing any goods or services, it is important to first educate yourself about what you are shopping for – engaging the services of a lawyer is no different.
Below are five general questions you should be asking before agreeing to let a lawyer represent you. Every case is unique, and will have different considerations – this advice is necessarily general in nature and you are encouraged to use it as a basis for further research.
Chance of Success
Asking about the likelihood of success with your case is a key question and you need to pay close attention to the answer. Generally, when making a prediction about the cases outcome, a good lawyer will be cautious – it is good practice by a lawyer to cite the results of past cases similar to the one presented. In order to secure your business, some unscrupulous lawyers will be far too optimistic when estimating your chance of success. If they are too quick to answer and are wildly optimistic, you should tread cautiously.
Please be aware that any prediction of success by your lawyer is just that, a prediction – it can not be seen as a guarantee.
The cost of lawyers and associated legal services is high. Because of this, the final cost of a case can be a major source of conflict between a lawyer and client. As such, it is important to be perfectly clear on the costs and fee structure before proceeding, so you can avoid a rude shock when receiving the bill at the conclusion of your case. You should request a breakdown of costs for all services you are likely to need, as well as an overall cost estimate for the entire case. Obviously, the cheapest lawyer is not always the best, so be sure to compare the level of service being offered if you are looking at multiple lawyers.
There are many different areas of law, so it is important to gauge the level of experience your lawyer has in cases such as yours. With boutique firms, the lawyer you initially consult with will be the one to handle your case, so you can ask them directly. In larger firms, you may be interviewed by an experienced lawyer, who will pass you onto someone else. Be sure you clearly and specifically ask about the experience of the lawyer who will be assigned to your case.
You wouldn't be pursuing legal action if your case was not of high importance to you. From the beginning, you need to be sure of how often your lawyer will report back to you with progress. No feeling is worse than being left in the dark, wondering what is happening. You should not hesitate to request frequent updates.
Settling a Case
The decision to settle, or try a case, is a big one and too many lawyers do not properly consult with their clients when it comes time to choose. In order to ensure you get consulted, you need to ask about their policy upfront and be clear that you wish to be given the final choice. If you receive too much resistance on this point, it may be a sign to choose a new lawyer.
As you can see, engaging a lawyer to represent you does not need to be difficult – as long as you ask some important questions upfront, it should be a relatively painless process.
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