By Paymon Z. Bidari at Bidari Civil Defense.
Almost nothing is more aggravating to a client than to leave a legal project or case in a lawyer’s hands and then have weeks or even months go by without anything happening. You want a lawyer who will work hard on your behalf and follow through promptly on all assignments.
As such, you would agree finding and hiring the right lawyer can make all the difference.
The first question one should ask before hiring a lawyer is:
Do I even need a lawyer?
Determine if it is possible and prudent to solve your own legal problem without the necessity of hiring a lawyer. In many cases, you may be able to solve your problem without an attorney’s help.
For example, if you are dealing with a regulated industry, there may government agencies in charge of supervising the business entity against which you may have a claim. Moreover, other community groups might also be able to offer you free advice on these types of legal matters.
On the other hand, sometimes a lawyer’s advice can be well worth the money. A lawyer can help ensure that you contact the right people first, and that you don’t do something that will hurt your case later. There is a lot of procedural safeguards that must be timely raised and protected.
If your legal problem is complex or involves lots of money or involves potential prison time, you might not want to attempt to handle the entire matter without a lawyer.
Don’t expect to locate a good lawyer by simply looking in the phone book or reading an advertisement. There’s not enough information in these sources to help you make a valid judgment.
Ways to Find (not select, but find) Lawyers.
#1: Personal Referrals
Ask for referrals. Ex-clients or persons who have have a business experience with the lawyer.
But don’t make a decision about a lawyer solely on the basis of someone else’s recommendation: Different people will have different responses to a lawyer’s style and personality.
Don’t make up your mind about hiring a lawyer until you’ve met the lawyer, discussed your case, and decided that you feel comfortable working with him or her. Not suggesting going for friendly lawyer, but one who you feel comfortable with even if they may not be the friendly.
Also, it may be hard to find lawyer through a personal referral with the expertise you need (for instance, if your friend had a great divorce lawyer, but you need incorporation advice, the referral may not do you much good).
#2: Online/Referral System/Advertisement.
Don’t necessarily settle for the first met lawyer
#3: Interview the Prospective Lawyers
When you get the names of several good prospects, the next step is to talk to each personally. If you outline your needs in advance, many lawyers will be willing to meet to you for a half-hour or so at no charge so that you can size them up and make an informed decision.
#4: Consider a Specialist
Most lawyers specialize in certain areas, and even a so-called “general practitioner” may not know that much about the particular area of your concern. For example, of the almost one million lawyers in America today, probably fewer than 50,000 possess sufficient training and experience in small business law to be of real help to an aspiring entrepreneur.
It can pay to work with a lawyer who already knows the field, such as employment discrimination, zoning laws, software design issues, or restaurant licensing.
Sometimes specialists charge a little more, but if their specialized information is truly valuable, it can be money well spent.
Stay away from attorneys who practice A to Z.
- How long has the attorney practiced in this field or area of law?
- Has the attorney ever handled similar matters? Outcomes?
- Ask what are the possible outcomes of you case?
- What are the alternatives in resolving the matter?
- Approximately how long will it take to resolve?
- How will the attorney keep his/her clients apprised of case status?
- What kind of approach will the attorney take – aggressive and unyielding, or will you work to reach a reasonable settlement?
- What are the rates and more importantly, what is the total estimate?
- What is a ballpark figure for the total bill, including fees and expenses?
- Who Will Do the Work? The assigned attorney or associate/assistant?
#6: Communicates well and easily.
#7: Willingness to Work With Client
When you have a legal problem, you need legal information. Lawyers, of course, are prime sources of this information, but if you bought all the needed information at their rates — $150 to $450 an hour – you’d quickly empty your bank account. Fortunately, many lawyers will work with you to help you acquire a good working knowledge of the legal principles and procedures you need to deal with your problem at least partly on your own.
If you are hoping to represent yourself and use a lawyer only for advice, make sure the lawyer is open to that type of set-up. Likewise, if you’re going into business and will draft your own bylaws or business agreements, ask the lawyer if she’s open to reviewing your drafts and making comments.
Pay particular attention to the personal chemistry between you and your lawyer. No matter how experienced and well-recommended a lawyer is, if you feel uncomfortable with that person during your first meeting or two, you may never achieve an ideal lawyer-client relationship. Trust your instincts and seek a lawyer whose personality is compatible with your own. Look also for experience, personal rapport, and accessibility.
- This is your case. Be honest with your lawyer. Tell him/her all the necessary information.
- This is your case. Stay involved. Don’t interfere with lawyers’ work, but still be involved.
- If your attorney is unwilling to cooperate or listen, then perhaps it’s time for a new attorney.
- Be careful of rates. Don’t keep depositing money without any results.
- Keep in mind what lawyers do is also complicated and requires a lot of time and energy. Lawyers may not always win, but at the very minimum should:
1) Provide their clients with complete and accurate legal information;
2) discuss all options and the benefits and risks of each option;
3) Based on that, let the client make an informed decision;
4) Be able to predict with a reasonable degree of certainty, the outcome of the case;
5) Be willing to settle the case if you wish or take it to trial if necessary.
If you have any questions, or concerns, please contact:
BIDARI CIVIL DEFENSE
444 N. Harbor Blvd. Suite 200, Fullerton, Ca. 92832