Things to Consider When Hiring a Lawyer
Having a legal problem is tough, but finding the right lawyer to help you with it can be challenging as well. There are many attorneys out there, each with their own sets of expertise. To aid you in your search, here are the things you need to consider when hiring a lawyer.
Factor #1: Qualifications
When you say qualification, it isn’t just about the lawyer’s academic background (although it does matter too). You also need to consider what specific branch of law the attorney practices and if it’s relevant to your problem. For instance, if you have a tax concern, you shouldn’t approach family law or personal injury lawyers.
While lawyers commonly do have more than one focus, their expertise is usually related to each other. For instance, a trust and estates attorney could also practise estate litigation and planning. On the other hand, a generalist may be competent in several areas, but may not be as effective as specialists.
Factor #2: Experience
The lawyer you’re considering should be experienced in handling your type of legal problem. For instance, if you’re suing someone for libel, which is a complex case, you’d need someone with a bit more experience than a fresh law graduate, even if the graduate was the top of the class. Likewise, if you just need help drawing a will for your spouse and have no children, a fresh graduate would do.
Factor #3: Cost and billing
Here’s when it gets hairy. How much is it going to cost you? Obviously, hiring a lawyer isn’t cheap so you need to know how your prospect plans to charge you. Would it be on an hourly rate or a flat fee? Our suggestion: use an hourly rate when the case’s time commitment is irregular, and a flat fee when you’re sure as to how much time would be devoted to the case.
Don’t forget to ask if the fees are negotiable, and if there are any other extra costs you have to shoulder (i.e. paralegal costs, photocopying costs and filing fees). Take note that more experienced lawyers, especially the really good ones, would most likely cost more.
Factor #4: Availability
Ask the lawyer if he or she is available to take the case immediately. But aside from this, consider if the lawyer can dedicate time to your case, and can be easily contacted through phone or e-mail. When you do call, see if he or she gets back to you right away. If you’re having a hard time getting in touch or setting up a meeting, you may have to consider looking for another one.
Factor #5: Reputation and background
To find out more about the lawyer’s reputation, ask past clients, other lawyers, and courtroom employees. Why is this important? You’ll know if the lawyer is actually good in court. Besides, if your attorney is known for seeing cases through to the end, opposing counsel may want to get into an early settlement.
Factor #6: Compassion
Think about how the lawyer deals with you. Are you treated with compassion? This may be a subjective factor, but it’s important. You’d want a lawyer who shows concern for his or her clients, not indifference.
Factor #7: Your comfort level
Aside from factors like qualification, experience, reputation and cost, you also need to be comfortable working with your lawyer. Because of this, you have to spend time talking with your potential lawyer. Factors that can influence your comfort level include your lawyer’s overall behaviour, strategy (i.e. do you agree with it?), and how the attorney communicates with you.