That is a difficult question to answer because each legal issue is as different as each client and each lawyer. The final decision should probably come down to the lawyer whom you believe to have the best experience you need to help you with your legal matter and with whom you think you could have an effective and efficient professional relationship.
You want to feel confident about the attorney you hire. Is he or she courteous, organized, and knowledgeable? Is he or she forthright with information?
Be sure you are comfortable with and understand the lawyer’s working style. Your relationship may last several months or more. You are likely to be asked to disclose information about yourself or your case about which no one else is aware. Since the lawyer will be acting on your behalf, it is critical that you are confident that he or she will listen to your concerns in a non-judgmental atmosphere of mutual respect.
People often believe that any lawyer can handle any case. This misplaced confidence frequently works to the client’s disadvantage. No lawyer is skilled in every area of the law. Some questions you should ask a lawyer are:
- What experience do you have in this area of the law?
- How many cases like mine have you handled?
- If you do not practice in this area of the law, could you recommend a lawyer who does?
- Could you provide me with references?
A lawyer-client relationship should be based on trust and open and honest communication. It requires a mutual commitment from the client and the lawyer. Before you hire a lawyer, you must be comfortable with that lawyer’s style. Consider these factors before you hire a lawyer.
How Will I Know Which Lawyer is Best for My Case?
Before you finally select a lawyer, you may want to do some “comparison shopping.” Given the importance of the work you are asking the lawyer to perform, you should select a lawyer in whom you have complete confidence.
Certain criteria can help you choose a lawyer. Before meeting with the lawyer, make notes about your problem and gather all of the related documents to bring with you. This will allow you to present your legal problem in the clearest and most organized manner possible. It will also allow you to focus on evaluating the lawyer’s response to your case and questions.
You should consider asking about/for the following:
- whether your legal matter is the type that the lawyer is willing to handle;
- the experience he/she has in the legal field your case involves;
- a preliminary outline of how the lawyer believes the case should be handled and the time frame for its resolution;
- how you can or will be expected to participate in the handling of the legal matter;
- what fee agreement is possible, including type of fee, expenses, frequency of billing and payment terms, in the clearest terms.
Lawsuits and other court decisions are never “sure things.” You should be cautious of a lawyer who guarantees results or claims never to have lost a case. A lawyer should, however, be able to tell you the strengths and weaknesses of your case. If you do not understand everything your lawyer tells you, ask for an explanation in simple language.
You can decide to hire a lawyer at your first meeting or you can take time to think things over. In either case, you may want to ask yourself the following questions as you evaluate whether this particular lawyer is the one for you:
- Will you be comfortable working closely with the lawyer?
- Do you believe the lawyer has the experience and skill to handle your case?
- Do you understand the lawyer’s explanation of what your case involves?
- Does the proposed fee agreement seem reasonable?
If your answer to one or more of these questions is “no,” you should probably talk with someone else. If all your answers are “yes,” you may have found the right lawyer for you.
Some types of legal matters are more complex than others and may require an attorney with specific experience and legal education. Medical malpractice cases often require the review of medical records to determine liability, obtaining medical expert opinions and taking depositions. Other legal matters have more serious consequences, such as incarceration. An attorney who routinely handles minor criminal offenses with a maximum penalty of a fine may not have the trial experience you would want if charged with a felony.
Be aware of certain misconceptions regarding lawyers. Qualified lawyers are not determined by age, gender or ethnic background. The size of the law firm and the law school the lawyer attended are commonly relied upon factors that may well have no bearing on whether you will receive high quality legal representation.