Most of these are best asked in the initial stages, before you agree to hire a particular attorney. We recommend treating initial meetings or consultations like an interview. You undoubtedly have a lot of questions about your legal issue, but don't forget to ask the attorney about their practice, experience, fees, etc., as well
When considering hiring an attorney, you might want to ask:
1. What areas of law do you practice? If you ask this question and the attorney lists more than a couple areas of law, it raises a red flag about their experience in the area you need. If they handle every case that comes through the door, it's less likely that they have significant experience in any one area.
2. How long have you been practicing? There is no magic number, but generally more experience is better. Seven to 10 years is a good benchmark.
3. Have you had a case similar to mine in the past? In larger areas of law, like personal injury, it might matter whether the attorney has experience in your specific type of case. For example, if you were injured by a defective product, ask if they've handled product liability cases before.
4. How often do you appear in the court where my case will be heard? Familiarity with the law is important, but so is familiarity with the people who make the decisions. An attorney who knows local judges, prosecutors, clerks and other attorneys, is in a better position (in our opinion) to get a good outcome.
5. Could you outline the process for this type of case? Each case is different, but there are usually some general steps that can be explained or outlined. Your attorney should be willing to answer questions like this and not just blow them off.
6. What is your fee? Obviously, you'll want to know how much they charge. But be sure to ask follow up questions, as well. It's a good time to understand how their fee works, whether they require a retainer, etc. Ask to look at their fee agreement so you can ask any questions you might have before it's time to sign.
7. How often can I expect to hear from you during my case? Attorneys should keep clients informed of major developments in their cases. Some attorneys will touch base every so often even if there haven't been any developments. Ask what you can expect.
8. What is the best way to get in touch if I have questions or concerns? Communication is a common complaint from clients. Try to avoid frustration by asking the best way to keep in touch. Also, don't be afraid to ask about their policy on returning client calls and emails. You shouldn't have to wait a week or more to hear back.
9. Will you be handling my case, or will it be someone else in your office? Sometimes, experienced attorneys pass their cases off on new associates in the firm. You should know who is working on your case. And you should make sure you're not paying a high hourly rate when someone at a lower rate is actually doing the work.
10. Do you enjoy your job? This may seem like a strange question. You don't have to actually ask, but try and get a sense of the attorney's level of interest or enthusiasm. Do you feel like they actually care? It's subjective, but important. A lot of attorneys get burned out after a while, and it can definitely affect their work.
Like most things, it's good to get a couple of opinions if you have the time. Most attorneys offer initial consultations at no cost.
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