Hiring an attorney is something most people only do once or twice in a lifetime, so finding the right one is not to be taken lightly. This is especially true considering that when searching for a lawyer. You are likely going through a difficult situation in your life, such as a divorce or the passing of a loved one. The same is also true when you are entering into an exciting new phase of life, such as a marriage or starting a business.
As it can feel like you are putting your life in the lawyer’s hands, finding someone you like and trust is critical.
The initial consultation is the chance to make that decision. An hour can give you great insight into whether or not you want to hire this person to help you. As you discuss your legal issue with the lawyer, and discover what strategy would be implemented for resolving it, you will discover quickly whether or not this attorney is the right fit for you and for your case.
The right “fit” involves a lot of pieces:
• Does this lawyer have extensive experience dealing with your type of case?
• Do you feel comfortable sharing some of the most intimate details of your life (your finances, your relationship with your spouse, parents, kids, etc.) with this person?
• Do you trust that the lawyer will keep these details confidential?
• If you want to heavily litigate your case, is the attorney comfortable in the courtroom or does he tend to settle all cases? (Or on the other hand: Is this attorney a bulldog who wants to fight about every issue in court whereas you are interested in peacefully settling your case?)
Some good questions to ask the attorney to help you determine this “right fit” are:
• What is your hourly rate?
• What are the hourly rates of your paralegals and associates? What is your retainer?
• How often do you bill?
• Who will I be able to talk to in your office if you are unavailable?
• How do I reach you in cases of emergency, on weekends and holidays?
• Will you handle the case alone, or will you be working with another attorney, an associate, or a paralegal?
• How will you keep me informed, and how will I communicate ideas and information to you between meetings?
• How many cases do you litigate per year? (And how many do you settle?)
Questions adopted from Janet Greek’s book, the Divorce Planner: Self-Defense for Women When They Need it Most.
I encourage any potential client I meet with to ask these important questions during the consultation. As with most things in life, honest and open communication from the beginning sets the tone for the relationship; whether with your spouse, your best friend or with your lawyer.
Robert (Bob) Good has practiced law in Jackson County for over twenty years, specializing in family law, estate planning and business law. Contact him at his Ashland office at (541) 482-3763.