Sooner or later everyone will need legal representation, whether it is to create a will or family trust, transfer ownership of a business, resolve a divorce, address an OUI charge, or seek compensation for injuries or property damage. Though there many different legal needs, there are a number of universal guidelines to follow when selecting an attorney.
Choosing the right attorney will make maneuvering the legal system much less stressful for you. It will also help ensure an outcome that is not just fair, but also favorable to you. When you are looking for legal representation, consider the following:
- Does the Attorney Have Experience?
You will achieve the best outcome if you align yourself with a lawyer that specializes in the type of legal service you need. Laws and regulations are constantly changing. A specialist will stay abreast of any new changes that may significantly affect your situation. In addition, they will be familiar with and best equipped to address potentially complicated legal scenarios that may arise.
- What is Their Track Record?
It is OK to ask an attorney about outcomes they have generated in other legal situations similar to yours. If your issue has the potential to result in a trial, ask about their settlement and trial record. The most successful attorneys will have a strong record in the courtroom as well as a history of securing maximum settlements for clients without going to trial. Going to trial is not always the best course of action. However, your attorney must be highly capable in the courtroom if it turns out that is the only way to achieve the best outcome.
- Does the Firm Have Staying Power?
A newer firm is working to stay on top of client commitments while also learning the ins and outs of running a business day to day. Firms that have been around a decade or more mastered the management aspect of running a law firm long ago, and they are ready to devote 100 percent of their attention to your legal needs.
- What do Friends and Family Have to Say?
At Lipman & Katz, most of our new clients come to us through a referral from someone they know and trust. Reach out to friends and family that have dealt with a legal issue similar to yours. Who would they suggest you work with? When the same name comes up again and again, you know who to call first.
- Do You Feel Comfortable Working With this Person?
When you are choosing an attorney, you are not looking for a friend or confidant. You need someone who can competently defend your interests. That said, you do need to select someone that makes you feel at ease and is willing to take the time to explain complicated legal matters in a way you will understand.
- How Will You Communicate and How Will You Be Billed?
A clear process for exchanging information will ensure your attorney will get all the details they need from you in order to keep your legal issues moving forward in a timely manner. It will also ensure that you are kept in the loop as your situation progresses. It is an office policy, unless instructed otherwise by the client, that the client receives a copy of all correspondence, communications and pleadings filed by the attorney in your case. We need you to be informed and we also need feedback from the client to let us know that the direction we are heading is one with which they are comfortable.
Compensation is another issue that needs to be addressed at the initial meeting and reduced to writing. The hourly fee and agreement will be in the written retainer contract. If it is not an hourly case, it is a contingency matter that would be outlined in the agreement. Our clients get a copy of all fee agreements. As a caveat, when you seek legal work, you don’t want to necessarily get the lowest priced attorney. Sometimes the hourly rate can be very misleading as a new, inexperienced attorney may take 5 hours to do something an experienced attorney can do in an hour.
- How Are They Profiled in Martindale-Hubbell?
Found online at Martindale.com, the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory is a reliable guide to gauging the expertise and abilities of individual lawyers and the firms they belong to. In addition to detailed biographies on attorneys nationwide, it also includes lawyer and law firm ratings based on peer reviews. A peer rating of AV indicates an attorney has reached the highest level of professional excellence in his or her field. Several Lipman & Katz attorneys have achieved a peer rating of AV from Martindale-Hubbell.