We all hope that we never have cause to set foot inside a courtroom (unless you’re a lawyer or a judge, of course), but we live in an unpredictable and increasingly complex world. As such, any of us could find ourselves unexpectedly in the middle of some form of litigation, and if this happens to you, be as prepared as possible for what follows.
The first part of any legal process will be finding an attorney with experience in the relevant area of the law, and who you can trust to represent your interests. Most of us have no idea how to go about identifying and securing the services of an appropriate lawyer, and until the situation arises, it is something we are unlikely to think about. Below are some words of advice from legal professionals on how to most efficiently go about finding the right lawyer.
Identify the Specialty
Most lawyers practice a specific area of the law and while they will probably have a reasonably good understanding of the universal basic principles of the law, they will be particularly well versed in their area of expertise. Identifying the kind of lawyer required is sometimes easy, for example if you are injured due to someone else’s negligence then search for a personal injury attorney.
However sometimes it is not so obvious, so searching the internet may reveal what specialty to look for, but if possible, consult with a qualified professional.
Remember that lawyers spend much of their time working with other lawyers and so as well as being able to identify the specialty you require, they might be able to furnish the name and contact details of a lawyer they can personally recommend.
There is an ever growing number of online resources for both lawyers and their clients. For example, FindLaw is a service that is operated by attorneys with the aim of making otherwise complex information and concepts accessible to the layperson.
Interviewing a Lawyer
After identifying a lawyer who works in the relevant field, interview them to ensure they are someone you can work with. Here are some of the questions to consider asking before deciding whether to hire them or not:
- Can they offer a free consultation? Some lawyers will charge for their time regardless of circumstances while others will be happy to discuss needs and offer some free advice. This is really down to the individual lawyer and it is up to you to judge whether such a consultation is worth paying for.
- What is their fee structure? Some lawyers will take their payment as a percentage of the settlement and forego payment if they lose the case. However most lawyers will want some kind of compensation for their time regardless of the outcome. Discuss potential payment plans with them and, if you’re feeling brave, perhaps see if their fee is negotiable.
- Can they provide references? References from previous clients are probably the best indicator of a lawyer’s effectiveness, and generally they will be happy to put you in touch with past clients. Remember to respect other people’s right to privacy, though; the lawyer might want to speak to the clients first before turning over any personal information.
Finding the right lawyer to handle your case is the first and most important step of any litigation. There might be a very strong case but if the lawyer isn’t up to scratch they might not manage to present the facts convincingly. Remember that the other side will have legal counsel of their own and so you want a lawyer who can stand up to the pressure.