At some stage in business or life you are likely to need legal advice. You could need one for legal advice on a business deal, filing paperwork, reviewing or drafting agreements, or representing you in insurance claims. Although the legal situation of each person may differ, having a qualified, dedicated, and committed lawyer to represent you is vital.
Weak legal representation or advice could cost you a lot, so here are five keynotes to follow in looking for a dedicated and committed law expert.
1. Area of Practice
Lawyers are service providers, and just like any other service, specialisation is key. When you have a toothache, you don’t go to a neurologist. If you need to get glasses, you don’t seek a surgeon. You understand that although they are all doctors, and probably all have a general idea about other fields of medical practice, you need someone whose practice and experience will fit your needs. Why then would you expect a corporate lawyer to help you with your divorce settlement?
The first step towards hiring a good lawyer is identifying what your problem is, and knowing which branch of law it falls under. That way, you can seek the advice and representation of a legal expert with experience in that particular field of the law. So, if you were a victim of personal injury, or fighting for your claim against the insurance company, these experts in personal injury law would know more about how to handle your case than, for instance, a criminal defence lawyer. Experience means that a lawyer will know the rule of law in that area like the back of their hand. It means being familiar with loopholes, usual practice, and, basically, how to win a case.
2. Potential Cost
During your search for a lawyer, it’s necessary to take potential costs into consideration. Don’t be shy or hesitant in inquiring about a lawyer’s fee or methods of payment. There are several common billing methods usually adopted by lawyers or law firms:
- Retainer Fee: a retainer fee is paid to a lawyer or a law firm for work they are expected to do. It could be made on a monthly basis, or for the whole case from start to finish.
- Billable hours: This method is an hourly rate for time spent by a lawyer or a legal team while working on your case. What this time includes may vary from one law firm to another, so be sure to always know what you will be billed for, and that it is clearly stated in your letter of engagement.
- Contingency: Contingency, often known as n0-win, no-fee, means that the lawyer(s) will not take any initial fees from you, but if they win the case or get you a settlement, they get a percentage. The advantage of this method is that if you lose the case, you do not have to pay any legal bills. Your lawyers only get paid if you win.
3. Individuals or Teams
Legal practices come in all shapes and sizes. Some lawyers may work individually, while others may have a team working with them. Some law firms may outsource a part of their work, while others may have their in-house teams. While a team of associates, paralegals and research could go a long way in granting you a “full-service” representation, it also means it will cost you more. So, always know who will be handling your case and how much you would need to pay them.
4. References and Recommendations
Word of mouth isn’t always the most solid grounds for making a decision. However, it’s preferable that you seek opinions and recommendations when you’re looking for a legal expert, and to particularly listen to first-hand experience. This could help you know some inside information about how a lawyer works, communicates, bills, and delivers from an unbiased point of view.
5. Integrity and Communication
There is definitely a negative stigma associated with lawyers, because some of them believe that cutting corners and lingering in ethical grey areas makes them somehow better at doing their job. However, when you choose a lawyer, be sure they have a good reputation of being credible and honest. You want someone you can trust who is respected by the judge and jury, and not someone they know could be manipulating them.
Good communication skills are also essential. Most firms will offer a free initial consultation. Use that time to judge whether their ethos and communication style works for you. If you leave the meeting feeling confused or patronised then, whatever their recommendations, they probably aren’t the right fit for you.
You should take your choice of lawyer very seriously. By following the tips provided here, you should be able to do so with much more confidence. Do your research, meet with many, and only pick the one you trust and feel comfortable talking to.