In almost any legal situation, from a minor traffic violation to an alleged crime to a civil case, you will need to hire a lawyer. Since a lot of these situations can be life-changing in one way or another, it’s important to find a good attorney. However, making sure you found the best one for you isn’t always easy, which is why it’s important to avoid making some mistakes when hiring a lawyer.
1. Not Checking Availability
It’s great if you know a lawyer with a lot of experience relevant to your case. It’s a good sign that he’ll be able to represent you well.
However, he could be too busy with other clients to take your case, or simply unable to take it on due to conflicts of interest. Lawyers that work at The 702 Firm encourage people to explicitly ask their potential attorney how many cases they’re currently working on. Knowing that your lawyer will have enough time to really focus on your case and that he won’t be distracted by other ones is important.
Depending on what your reason for hiring a lawyer is – there might be different statutes of limitation at play and having a lawyer that will do his due diligence and examine every aspect of your case in a timely manner is crucial.
2. Not Specifying Who Will Handle Your Case
Most lawyers work at law firms, which means that many people who work there are qualified to handle your case.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all equally good at it. One of the most important questions, if you want to hire a lawyer, is whether you will deal directly with him or be assigned to another person in the firm that may not have as much experience. Even if you’re not sure, it’s reasonable to assume that your attorney will be the best person to handle your case.
If you do know of someone else in the firm who might work on your case and want them to do so, make this clear or your first meeting could end up being a very frustrating experience.
3. Not Making Your Goals Clear
You need to figure out why you’re hiring a lawyer in the first place before going into your first meeting with one.
Sometimes people don’t care about compensation – they want to go to court no matter what for different reasons. Others don’t really care either way as long as they can get on with their lives. Some people, however, want an out-of-court settlement that will help them avoid the public exposure of a trial. Then again, there are people that like to know their options and for the lawyer to decide on the best course of action.
Making it clear what your goals are from the get-go will help your lawyer know how to best represent you. He’ll be able to figure out what settlement offers he can realistically present and whether going to court is a possibility or not.
4. Not Asking About Costs
When you hire a lawyer, at some point you will have to pay him or her for his services. You might not know exactly how much it’s going to cost, and that’s okay – most attorneys will offer a payment plan. But it’s important to be as upfront as possible and ask about your lawyer’s rates and what they cover.
For instance, some small claims cases don’t involve court costs but others do. Also, not all legal fees are the same – there might be additional charges involved that you need to know about ahead of time. Additionally, some have an hourly rate, others work on a contingency fee basis and yet others will accept a flat payment for the entire case. Be sure to find out how much it will cost you in advance so that there are no surprises later on.
Going with the cheapest option probably isn’t the best decision, but if your case is relatively mundane, you don’t exactly need to hire the most expensive attorney in town either.
5. Not Knowing What You’re Signing
It’s important that you know exactly what you’re signing when you hire a lawyer.
If your attorney drafts something up for you to sign and sends it over electronically, make sure that there aren’t any unknowns in the document. If you still have questions about something, make sure they are clarified before anything is signed. Don’t just sign something because you think it’s the final version when there are still unresolved issues that need to be addressed.
A responsible lawyer will go over the contract with you step by step. If you feel like you’re being hurried along or that you’re not getting all the necessary information, you might want to consider finding a different lawyer.
6. Not Asking For A Second Opinion
If you’re dealing with a complex issue, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion.
With legal issues especially, there are so many factors involved that you might not even be aware of if you don’t have experience in these matters. Sometimes, even if the issue isn’t as complex, promises can be made that seem just a bit too good to be true. If for any reason, you don’t feel like you can trust the lawyer you’re talking to, you might want to look elsewhere. It’s never a bad idea to contact another lawyer for a second opinion if it’s within your budget – especially since you already have an established relationship with the person you’re currently working with.
If anything, he or she will give you some insight on what they think your best course of action is and can possibly give you some suggestions on who else to contact.
When hiring a lawyer, it’s important to remember that you’ll need to work with this person for the duration of your case and since most cases don’t end in a settlement right away, that means you have an established relationship with them. It’s important that you find someone who is trustworthy and willing to put in the time required. Most importantly, make sure that this person shares similar values when it comes to working together. There needs to be trusted on both ends – yours in your lawyer and his in you. Asking questions whenever you feel like you don’t understand something is entirely normal. Your lawyer isn’t there just to sign documents and take your money – he or she is supposed to represent you in the best manner possible and that requires both parties to be on the same page.