FAQs – Hiring an Attorney

Questions are common before hiring an attorney. You may want to know what to expect from the relationship, or how best to prepare to get the most out of your meetings with an attorney. Asking questions before hiring an attorney helps you assess their expertise and experience, understand their approach to resolving your legal matter, and clarifying costs and other legal fees associated with your case.

Here are some of the most common questions people have about hiring an attorney. We’re always available to answer any additional questions.

How do I find a reputable attorney?

Most people ask family and friends for recommendations when they need an attorney. You also can use a lawyer referral service to find a good match for your legal needs. Whichever method you use, be sure to check client reviews as part of the process.

Before hiring an attorney, it’s critical to ensure they’re in good standing with the state bar association. Search the attorneys name on the search function within the bar’s website to find the status of their law license and whether they have a disciplinary record.

What should I consider when choosing an attorney?

There are several key factors to consider when hiring an attorney. The most important is their reputation and credentials. Check the status of their license to practice, plus any awards, accolades, or recognition they’ve received for their work. Also, consider any memberships in professional associations and legal organizations.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Availability, time, and resources to handle your case.
  • Communication and responsiveness to your inquiries.
  • Cost and fee structure.

What questions should I ask during the initial consultation with an attorney?

An attorney asks you lots of questions during your initial consultation with them. However, they aren’t the only ones who should make inquiries during that first meeting. To ensure you’re choosing the best attorney to represent your legal needs, make sure you ask questions as well, including:

  • What is your experience and expertise in handling cases like mine?
  • How long have you practiced law and what percentage of your practice is devoted to cases like mine?
  • Can you provide examples of cases like mine that you’ve successfully handled?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
  • What legal strategies do you recommend for the best outcome?
  • How do you communicate with clients and update them on the progress of their cases?
  • What is your fee structure? Are there any additional costs or expenses?
  • Will you personally handle my case, or will it be delegated to other attorneys and staff members?
  • Are there alternative dispute resolution methods appropriate for my legal situation?
  • How do you handle potential conflicts of interest?
  • How do you involve clients in the decision-making process regarding their cases?

How much does hiring an attorney typically cost?

The cost of hiring an attorney varies depending on their experience, the complexity of the case, and the type of legal matter involved. Here are some of the common fee structures:

  • Contingency fees are common among attorneys who handle personal injury and employment law legal matters. They receive a percentage of the payment received on your behalf (usually 30% to 40%).
  • Flat fees for specific legal services like drafting a will or handling a simple divorce are common among some legal professionals. Make sure to clarify what services are included in the flat fee and if there are any additional costs.
  • Hourly rates vary significantly based on an attorney’s experience and location. If your attorney charges by the hour, be sure to get an estimate of the number of hours they anticipate spending on your case.
  • Retainer fees are an upfront payment to secure an attorney’s services. The attorney then bills against the retainer as they perform work. Make sure to ask if any unused portions of the retainer are refundable.

What information should I provide to my attorney?

To ensure your attorney can effectively represent you and resolve your legal matter, you must provide them with relevant and accurate information about your case. The key types of information needed depend on the kind of legal representation required. Some examples of items your attorney may request include:

  • Background information
  • Communication records
  • Financial information
  • Related legal documents
  • Updates on previous legal action

What is attorney-client privilege and how does it work?

Attorney-client privilege is a legal principle that protects the confidentiality of communications between you and your attorney. Designed to encourage open and honest communication between you and your attorney, it promotes trust and enables you to seek legal advice without fear of your conversations with your attorney being disclosed to others.

There are some exceptions to attorney-client confidentiality. Situations where you disclose your intention to commit a crime, seek legal advice to assist in committing a crime, or waive your right to privilege are among the most common exemptions to the law.

What are the ethical responsibilities of an attorney?

Attorneys have ethical responsibilities that guide their professional conduct and ensure they uphold the principles of integrity, competence, and loyalty in their representation of clients. Among the most universally-recognized values include:

  • Duty of competence. Attorneys must provide competent legal representation, which includes possessing the necessary legal knowledge, skills, and resources to handle your case.
  • Duty of confidentiality. Attorneys must maintain the confidentiality of any information you provide and only share it with others when you authorize it.
  • Duty of diligence. Attorneys must conduct thorough research, prepare and present legal arguments, gather relevant evidence, and pursue the best possible outcome for their clients.
  • Duty of professionalism. Attorneys must conduct themselves with professionalism, courtesy, and respect toward their clients, opposing parties, witnesses, and the court (when involved).

How can I prepare to work with an attorney?

Preparing to work with your attorney ensures a smooth and productive relationship. One of the most important things you can do to prepare is to define your objectives. Clearly define your goals and why you’re seeking legal representation.

Gather all relevant information and related documents to take to your consultation. Contracts, correspondence, financial records, and any other documentation pertaining to your case are all relevant information your attorney needs.

Lastly, be honest and transparent about all relevant information to help your attorney develop appropriate solutions for your legal needs.

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