Mark Briggs Phoenix Attorney explains what you should know when choosing representation
When searching for the right attorney, you usually have the opportunity to go for a free or very low-cost consultation to discuss the details of your situation and meet an attorney in person. This meeting gives you a chance to ask some basic questions that should not only help you decide whether you need an attorney, but also whether a particular lawyer is right for you.
What types of matters do you typically handle? What percentage of your practice is devoted to each type?
These questions help you assess whether you have the right kind of lawyer for your matter. You don’t want to use a bankruptcy lawyer for your divorce, or vice-versa.
How many matters have you handled that were similar to mine? When was the last time you worked on one of those?
These questions help you drill down on specific experience in your particular type of matter. Feel free to ask about the lawyer’s past performance, including for example, the amount of cases settled or won.
Aside from your law degree, what kind of special training do you have that might help in my case?
Some areas of law are fairly specialized and may require other relevant training, education or experience. A good example is patent law, where many lawyers have degrees in engineering or experience as a software programmer, that help the lawyer understand better the things that are being patented. The right lawyer will be able to explain if they have relevant education, training or experience that is relevant to your matter.
What are your costs and fees, and how will I be billed?
It is important to clearly lay out the business relationship between you and your attorney, and that means what services you will receive and what you will pay for those services. Many clients are shocked by the amount of their legal bills, which is usually due to poor communication about what the services are going to likely cost. Ask about alternatives to hourly billing rates, such as flat fees or success fees. Most lawyers are lousy business, so don’t rely on them to make sure your billing arrangement is clear and satisfactory.
How will I be updated on my case?
You should discuss with your attorney how you both prefer to communicate regarding case status—phone, email, letters? Be sure that your lawyer knows of your expectations regarding answering your emails and calls, updating you on the status of your case, and including you in substantive decisions about the case.
Finally, whether you are asking the questions above, or ones you have drafted yourself, remember you should feel comfortable asking questions and be satisfied with all the answers before you agree to hire a lawyer.
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