Every year, state courts see over 100 million cases, while federal courts see 400,000. In an unfair world where some people are unscrupulous, it is no surprise that courts all over the nation are always busy.
You might’ve been lucky and never needed a lawyer. But now, you’re in a tough situation, and you need expert legal counsel.
There are a few choices available, and you want to narrow them down. Here are the questions you should ask a lawyer to see if they’re a good fit.
Are You a Generalist or a Specialist?
Most (if not all) lawyers are generalists. This includes personal injury attorneys, whose practice areas involve car, truck, and motorcycle accidents, as well as wrongful deaths and premises liability. Law school requires that they study all areas of law, so they can then decide on a specialty later if they want.
If you’ve got a simple case, then a generalist lawyer will suffice. They can handle areas such as:
- Tax law
- Real estate
- Civil rights
However, if you feel like your case is a complicated one, a specialist may be better. Ask the lawyer you’re interviewing what their specialty practices are; they’ll usually pick one or two to concentrate on.
How Many Years of Experience Do You Have?
A lawyer who’s just passed the bar is likely to handle your case well, especially if it is a straightforward one. However, if the outcome can significantly impact your life, then you’ll want to choose someone with more experience and success.
In general, your attorney should have at least 10 years of experience. This is enough time for them to go through enough cases to ensure yours goes smoothly.
If you’re looking for a specialist, then double-check that the lawyer has experience in the relevant practice area. For example, an attorney might’ve had a general practice for 15 years, but they’ve only specialized in personal injury for five years. In this situation, you might want to keep looking.
What’s Your Win Rate Like?
Not only should a lawyer have plenty of experience, but they should also have a fantastic win rate.
You might think that “experience” is synonymous with “gone to trial often,” but attorneys are misrepresented on TV and in the media. It is actually not a common occurrence for lawyers to go to court since they’re able to get settlements for their clients.
Yes, settlements are the best result for all parties involved, but they don’t always happen. You want to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, so you need a lawyer with extensive trial experience. And not only that but an excellent win rate too.
How Would You Handle My Case?
Your attorney will be the person dealing with all the intimate details of your case. So their style needs to match yours.
For instance, aggressive lawyers may be good for divorces where you’re duking it out with your ex. However, gentler ones are more suited for the job if you’re remaining friends with them.
An attorney’s answer to this question can also show how competent they are. If they’re confident about their services, they can tell you every step of the theoretical case in detail.
You can also ask if they have previous clients who were in your shoes. If so, then they should be happy to provide you with a reference. You can then contact these people and ask them questions about the lawyer.
Otherwise, if they’re bumbling through their explanation, this may be a sign that the attorney never handled a case like yours and aren’t sure how to.
How Many People Will Be Assigned to My Case?
Simple and straightforward cases may only require one attorney’s time. However, they might have a heavy workload, so it’s common for them to have a team. This is especially true if your case will be long and complicated.
Ask if other firm employees will be assigned to your case. And if so, what are their positions? Junior attorneys and paralegals have lower pay rates, so make sure this is reflected when you’re billed.
If you know that you have a more complex claim, your lawyer should be getting assistance. They may not have good judgment if they assure you they can handle it solo.
How Long Do You Think My Case Will Take?
A reputable lawyer can take a look at your claim and give you an estimate of how long it may take to complete.
This is a handy question since you can manage your expectations better. For example, you might’ve thought you have a clear-cut case that should take a month, tops. However, the reality is, it can take months. In some cases, it can drag on for years!
Asking this question ensures that everyone’s on the same page.
What Are Your Fees?
There are two main ways lawyers charge for their services: flat fees or hourly rates.
Most will charge hourly rates, but there’s a huge range, depending on their experience and demand. You might find an attorney that charges just $100/hour, and then happen upon another that charges $1,000/hour. So it’s a good idea to speak to several law professionals to find one with a good price and experience level.
The fees don’t just stop there either. Other charges include statutory, contingent, and retainer fees.
Have an in-depth discussion about which fees an attorney charges and how much you can expect to pay at the end. This can help you plan your finances better.
Ask the Right Questions
Although there are many practicing lawyers in the nation, not every single one will do a good job. They’re not always a fine match for every client either, even if they’re at the top of their industry.This is why it’s important to come prepared with a list of questions. If you put in the time and effort, then you’ll be rewarded with an attorney who will be an outstanding advocate.