Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to Pick the Right Attorney for You

When you have a legal issue and you've decided it's time for you to talk with an attorney, the next question you come across is "How do I pick the right one?"

There are plenty of competent attorneys out there, but how do you know you're picking the right one for you and your specific problem or issue?  First,when you meet with a lawyer, you should approach it as an interview (you are, after all, going to be hiring someone).  Make a list of questions you want answers to before you decide whether or not you want to hire a particular attorney.  Some questions you may want answers to are: What are your fees?  What is your approach?  How often can I expect to hear from you and how long do you typically take to return phone calls? When creating your list of questions, try your best to invision what it is you expect out of your attorney-client relationship.  Make sure you let the attorney know your expectations.  An honest attorney may have to tell you that your expectations are unrealistic and likely will not be met (you should then decide if you want to re-visit your expectations and adjust them or move on to another attorney).  The more thorough you are at the beginning of the relationship, the greater likelihood you will have a smooth and successful relationships.  Most attorneys will not mind answering these questions before you hire them and if they are not willing to answer those questions, they may not be the best fit for you. 

You should not limit your interview to one attorney.  If you have never dealt with the legal field, you have no idea what to expect from an attorney.  By talking with multiple attorneys, it will give you something to compare to when deciding which attorney will be the best fit for you.  Also, be prepared for the attorneys to ask you questions as well; if it is going to be a smooth and successful relationship the attorney needs to know your expectations up front as well.

Now that you have your questions and are prepared for a meeting, how do you choose who to meet with?  Referrals are a wonderful source of suggestions for clients.  Talk with your friends, family, church members, co-workers (if appropriate), etc. and see if anyone has worked with an attorney in the past and had a successful relationship.  Call your local bar association and ask for a referral (sometimes a fee may be involved).  Search Avvo.com for a local lawyer who practices in your area of law.  If you know an attorney who doesn't practice in your area of law, ask them if they have any suggestions.

Don't settle for an attorney who you are not entirely happy with.  Attorney client relationships typically last a long period of time and involve a great deal or teamwork and communication.  If you are not happy with the attorney in the beginning, your expectations probably will not be met long term. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"I have a legal problem: At what point do I talk to a lawyer?"

Most of my blog posts are more or less specific to one area of law.  This post is intended to be broad.  For additional information, you are welcome to contact my office or another attorney.

Regardless of what it is, you may find yourself in the position that you suddenly realize you have a legal problem.  That problem could be that you were speeding and got a ticket, you've decided you might be interested in divorce, you suddenly realized you don't have a will, etc.  Typically the next thought is, what do I do about my legal problem?

While it may be tempting to say "I'll try to handle it myself, first", you should seriously consider saying to yourself "I need to talk with an attorney as soon as possible."  This does not mean, I need to retain an attorney as soon as possible; it simply means, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

Yes, you may be charged for a consultation (or you may be offered a free consultation), but it will almost always save you money down the road.  The reason for this is that as soon as you realize there is a legal problem, you could be doing or saying things that harm yourself or your case without even realizing it.

For example, you've decided you want a divorce and before speaking with an attorney, you leave your spouse and move out of the marital home.  You could possibly be subjecting yourself to liability and a fault-based divorce.  By speaking with a lawyer, they can listen to all of the facts and tell you the best way to remove yourself from the marriage while minimizing the likelihood that you would be liable for a fault based divorce.

Another example, you've been arrested (maybe a felony, maybe just a misdemeanor) and the police officer says: "Just tell us what happened and we'll let you off easy."  You may be admitting to crimes you did not commit and you may not be fully aware of your right to remain silent.  By speaking with an attorney, that attorney can analyze your situation to determine if it is best for you to speak with the police officer or if it is best for you to remain silent.

At the beginning of a legal problem, it may seem manageable and not very complicated.  However, as you proceed through that legal problem, it will inevitably get more complex and difficult.  You would (I think) rather be in a position where you have representation at the beginning, guiding you through the whole problem, that have representation half-way through that results in a lawyer having to fix things that may have already gone wrong but could have been prevented.

Many attorneys will offer free consultations, or consultations at a reduced rate.  Even if you do not retain an attorney in the beginning, you should certainly consider speaking with one as soon as possible so that you are aware of your rights and responsibilitiess as you move forward.