There are countless reasons that someone might need to hire a lawyer. Specifically, one of the most common reasons to hire a lawyer is to help you with a personal injury case. For example, if you’re hurt in a car accident, you might want a Houston truck accident lawyer or car accident lawyer.
Other types of personal injury situations include workplace injuries, drunk driving accidents, and construction accidents. Personal injury cases aren’t filed in criminal court, and they’re largely settled before a trial could ever start when someone works with an experienced attorney.
Another reason to hire an attorney is for family law. Divorce is most common here, and more specifically, a lawyer might be hired to represent you in a child custody case or if you’re trying to decide how to split up shared property. Adoption, emancipation, and guardianship are also reasons to hire a family lawyer.
A third common area of the law where people hire a professional is estate planning. You may want to set up things like trusts and make sure that all of your wishes are in writing and notarized if you are incapacitated or in the vent of your death.
These are just a small sample of the reasons people hire a lawyer, but regardless of what situation you’re in, in particular, the following are key considerations to keep in mind before you choose someone to work with.
1. Know the Type You Need
With the above list just giving a small sample of the types of lawyers who are available, it’s important to know very specifically what your needs are before you hire someone.
Most lawyers will specialize in one area of the law, and if you need someone to represent you through bankruptcy, a family law specialist probably isn’t going to be the best option.
Even if someone says that they can handle your case, you should ask them what their relevant experience is with cases like yours if it doesn’t seem to be their area of specialty.
Most lawyers are also licensed to practice in a certain state.
A good starting point before you speak to any potential lawyers is to define your problem pretty specifically. In doing so, you also want to define the immediacy of your problem. You may not have the luxury of time, depending on the situation you’re in.
2. Consider More Than One
It’s a good idea to have a list of at least a few potential lawyers who specialize in your area of need. That way, you can speak to each of them and interview them to see which is going to be a good fit for you.
Before you go speak to the lawyers on your shortlist, have a set of questions prepared. If you’re worried about asking in person because you feel like it would be intimidating, you can email them the questions as well.
You should, at this point, ask for references and more details about recent cases they handled, as well as whether they’ve tried similar cases. You should also ask if the lawyer is going to handle your case entirely themselves or pass off the work to less experienced lawyers.
3. Personality Matters
Someone’s personality is important when they’re representing you legally. You need to feel like you can be honest with this person and trust them. You also have to feel comfortable potentially sharing a lot of personal information with them. Some people might like a warmer lawyer, but for other people, their preference could be someone who’s direct and straight to the point.
No one can tell you what type of personality is best for you—that’s a personal decision.
4. Know What You’re Paying For
A personal injury lawyer will typically charge a contingency fee. That means that the lawyer theoretically only makes money when you recover damages. However, all contingency fee arrangements are different. You also have to consider additional expenses like expert witness fees, postage, and more.
If you’re paying a retainer, you should find out exactly how far this will get you. If you’re paying by the hour, realize that these costs should add up quickly.
It can be a good idea to get a ballpark figure for an attorney who thinks your case will cost before you jump in.
You need to feel comfortable talking about fees with a lawyer. If a lawyer doesn’t want to go into detail about how they bill or their fees upfront, it can be a red flag. Talking about money with a lawyer can actually give you a good feel for how other things will be handled.
Even if you think you’re very clear on how you’re going to pay a lawyer, always go over those monthly bills very carefully.
5. Check Their Records
There are a lot of ways you can check out a lawyer’s background. For example, you can go to your state bar association to find out if the lawyer has even been the subject of an ethical complaint.
6. Case Responsibilities
This was briefly touched on above, but you’re going to want to know how case responsibilities are going to work out when you hire a lawyer. For example, who’s actually going to represent you if you go to court? You might think it’s the lawyer you initially meet with, but there’s a high likelihood they’re going to pass the case on.
If you have preferences, let the law firm know upfront.
Finally, one of the biggest reasons clients get frustrated with their lawyers and even fire them is because they feel like they can’t get in touch with them. You may have a situation come up where you need to speak with your attorney quickly, so before you ever hire someone, ask them how available they are. Get some clear guidelines on when you can expect to hear back from them after contacting them.
You need a lawyer who’s going to make it a priority to return your calls and emails within at least 24 hours.