Tips for Hiring an Attorney
Questions to Consider When Hiring an Attorney
Choosing an attorney may be the most important step toward resolving your legal situation.
The attorney you choose can affect the amount of time and money you spend resolving your case, how much input you have about your case, future relationships with the opposing party, and how your case is decided.
Finding an attorney is like hiring an employee. Remember, you are hiring someone to work for you.
Consider the following questions when meeting your LRIS attorney:
- How much experience does the attorney have with cases like yours? How many years has the attorney practiced law?
- How would the attorney represent your point of view?
- How much does the attorney charge? Are you willing to pay these fees? (See the section on fees for more information.)
- Are you comfortable with the attorney? Can you share the personal aspects of your case with this person?
- Do you have confidence in the attorney to resolve your legal situation?
Understanding Attorney Fees and Legal Costs
Cost is one of the most important factors to most individuals who are looking for a lawyer. LRIS refers callers to private regular-fee attorneys only. The following should help you understand the fees involved in hiring an attorney.
You should sign a retainer agreement when authorizing the attorney to work for you. The retainer agreement is your contract with the attorney. It should specify how you will pay (hourly rates, contingency and flat fees, or retainers) and the cost of various legal services (research, drafting of documents, filing fees, court hearings). Read this contract carefully and keep a copy.
Typical Fee Structures:
Flat Fees: The attorney provides a specific service for a specified fee. This arrangement is most common in simple cases like the purchase of property and the preparation of a will or trust.
Contingency Fees: The attorney is paid only when money is collected for you. However, you will need to pay some costs “up front,” such as filing fees and court costs. A contingency arrangement is possible only if you are seeking monetary damages.
Retainers and Hourly Fees: The attorney often will ask for a retainer, or advance payment, before working for you. The attorney will then subtract hourly fees from this retainer. You should receive itemized statements listing services provided and fees charged.
Your Attorney’s Responsibilities…
- Represent you competently. Your attorney should have the legal expertise to handle your case. The attorney should know the legal process and the law as it relates to your case.
- Keep you involved in your case. You, not your attorney, must live with the outcome of your case. Your attorney’s role is to advise and recommend. Remember, you must make the final decision.
- Remain available. Your attorney should regularly inform you of your case’s progress. The attorney should return phone calls within a reasonable time.
- Maintain your privacy. In most cases your attorney cannot share facts from your case with others. Ask your attorney for more information on attorney-client confidentiality.
- Make progress toward resolving your case. Your attorney is employed by you to resolve your legal problems. You should expect your attorney to be making progress on your case.
- Practice law in an ethical manner. If you have questions or believe your attorney is acting unethically, call the Lawyers Board of Professional Responsibility at 651/296-3952.
- Be realistic. Attorneys cannot work miracles. They can only argue the facts as they exist. Ask your attorney what is a reasonable outcome of your legal situation.
- Be honest. Tell your attorney every important fact. Your attorney cannot help you if you are not honest. If you withhold facts you waste your money and your attorney’s time.
- Pay your legal fees. LRIS provides only private regular-fee attorneys. You should expect to pay for attorney services, including phone calls, letters, drafting and reviewing of documents, and court appearances.
- Be a part of your case. You have to live with the outcome of your case. Let your attorney know what is an acceptable outcome. Ask questions so that you understand the legal aspects of your case and the legal process.
- Respect your attorney’s time. Your attorney’s time is your money — use both wisely. If you must cancel an appointment, notify your attorney in advance. Put your questions in writing so the attorney can prepare answers ahead of time.
- Communicate with your attorney. If you are not happy with your attorney, voice your concerns. Remember, this person is working for you.