Hiring a lawyer will be one of the most important decisions many people will make in their lifetime. If you hire the wrong person, you could face any number of unpleasant consequences. Hire the wrong divorce attorney and you might end up losing custody of your children. Hire the wrong criminal defense attorney and you might wind up behind prison bars. Hire the wrong personal injury lawyer, and you may end up footing all the medical bills for an accident that was someone else’s fault. Given the major consequences of hiring the wrong attorney, it’s no wonder that so many people want to make sure they ask the right questions during their initial consultation with their lawyer.
Initial consultations with a potential legal hire are often free or provided at an almost non-existent charge. This is your moment to shine as a client and make sure that the lawyer meets all of your requirements. Before asking these questions, it’s a good idea to brush up on just why you should hire a lawyer for your case. That’s your motivation. The questions will help you make the big decision of just who that lawyer should be.
Now it’s your time to ask the questions. Here are a few broad questions that will help you get more comfortable with your potential lawyer.
1. How Much Experience do You Have?
Experience is important in law. Even if they’ve just had experience as an intern, that means they’ve still been exposed to the practice areas that match your legal needs. A good portfolio of work – most importantly, of success in their cases – helps you to feel more confident in hiring any lawyer. When they can show you in black and white that they’ve had positive outcomes in the courtroom, you can move forward toward hiring them much more confidently.
2. Have You Worked on Any Cases that are Like Mine?
The greatest criminal defense attorney in the world has vast experience in criminal law and might be one of the greatest criminal lawyers in the world, but if your case is a personal injury slip and fall case, that lawyer might never have worked on a case like yours. Asking to see the similar cases the lawyer has worked on will help you determine if they’re a good match for your needs.
3. What are You Billing Methods and Ehen do You Bill?
Many personal injury attorneys don’t ask for up-front fees for the consultation or during your case. You pay only after you win and if you don’t win, you don’t pay. You won’t find a criminal lawyer that bills this way. They will all have different billing methods and payment schedules, but it’s imperative that your lawyer be open and honest in discussing their billing procedures. When discussing billing information, you should get a sense of whether or not your lawyer is transparent. The more open about billing, the better. If you get an uneasy feeling about how they answer this question, it might be time to look elsewhere.
4. How do You Keep Clients Updated on their Case?
No one wants a non-responsive lawyer. It’s one of the most frustrating things during any legal ordeal. The doors of communications should always swing wide open. When you ask a lawyer this during the initial consultation, they should have many different avenues of communicating with you about your case. Email, phone, and even video communication might be on the table. If they get vague about this question or seem distant, this might not be the lawyer for you.
5. How do You Think my Case will be Resolved?
If it’s a personal injury case, the lawyer should be able to give you a reasonable idea of what kind of compensation you might win. If you’re facing criminal charges, a lawyer should be able to tell you what outcome they think is likely for your charges. This should be a realistic portrayal of how your legal situation.
Educational institutions like the University of Washington emphasize the importance of finding the right lawyer. What is “right” for you may be wrong for someone else. Some of it will have to do with personality, other things with their legal expertise. After hearing the answers to these 5 simple questions, you’ll have a better idea of whether you’ve found the right lawyer or whether you need to continue your search.