FindLaw’s Guide to Hiring an Attorney

When you need legal assistance, the right attorney can mean everything. FindLaw’s guide to Hiring an attorney covers tips on when to hire, how to choose and what to expect.

Often, the best way to select an attorney is to ask friends and family for referrals. Some attorneys even offer free consultations to help you decide.

Know What You Want

When choosing an attorney, you need to know what you want. Whether you need help with starting a business, filing for bankruptcy, a divorce or any number of other legal issues, hiring the right lawyer can make all the difference in the outcome.

Look for someone with experience in your specific area of law. You can find out about an attorney’s experience through recommendations from family and friends or by checking their website.

You should also be comfortable communicating with the lawyer. Be sure you can tell them about your case without being embarrassed or judged. You should feel a rapport with the attorney and a sense that they have your best interests at heart. A good lawyer will also be direct with you and keep your discussions focused. After all, attorneys get paid by the hour and you don’t want your lawyer wasting your money on irrelevant topics. They should be willing to give you an idea of the timeline for your case and what to expect moving forward.

Get a Recommendation

When looking for an attorney, it’s always a good idea to get a recommendation from someone you trust. A lawyer recommendation can come from a friend, family member or trusted advisor, such as your accountant. You can also look for online recommendations.

A recommendation letter should detail how the writer knows the candidate, such as being a law school professor or a colleague at work. It should describe the candidate’s character, work ethic and abilities. The letter should end with the writer stating that she is willing to endorse the candidate for employment or a promotion.

In addition to getting a recommendation, ask for names of several attorneys who have handled the type of legal problem you have. Interview each candidate for about a half hour, and pay particular attention to how you feel in the meeting. It’s important to find an attorney who inspires confidence and makes you feel at ease. You will be working closely with your attorney for years, so a good relationship is essential.

Interview Several Options

It’s perfectly normal for clients to interview several attorneys before they decide to retain one. As an attorney, it’s your job to listen to your client and help them find the right lawyer for their legal issue.

During the interview process, you should ask each potential attorney a few questions about their experience and their practice. You may also want to ask them about their education and background. However, you should avoid asking any personal or intimate questions.

In addition, you should discuss the cost of the work with each attorney. Most lawyers charge hourly, so you should ask each attorney how much they think it will take to complete the project and how many hours they estimate they’ll spend on it. Then you should compare the prices of each attorney and choose the best one for your needs and budget.

Ask About Fees

Most attorneys charge by the hour, so you want to be sure you can afford their services. Besides their hourly rate, ask about other expenses that may come up during the course of your case.

Many lawyers also offer flat or fixed fees for uncomplicated services, such as writing a will or filing a simple bankruptcy. If they do, be sure to find out what that fee covers and doesn’t cover so you can budget accordingly.

Make sure to find out if you will be working with the attorney directly or with support staff. Some attorneys will make themselves available by phone or email at nights and weekends while others will channel all communication through their paralegals. It is important that you find an attorney who can communicate effectively with you as well as a professional who will dedicate adequate time to your case. Otherwise, you will be wasting your money and time. If you are unsure, consider asking for references to gauge compatibility and availability.