When you choose a Lawyer, you must make sure that they have the necessary skills, aptitude, and experience to handle your matter, so that you can have the best possible outcome for your case.
Most individuals do not deal with Lawyers regularly; and you may not have dealt with a Lawyer ever before.
Even if your friends or family referred you to a Lawyer, you still have to do your research and establish if you and the Lawyer are compatible in terms of an attorney/client relationship.
You may be a law-abiding citizen that was arrested for speeding or something, and you urgently need a Lawyer to get you out on bail.
If you have your own business or plan to start a new company, you may have to find a law firm that can assist you with the incorporation of your business, the drafting of contracts, patents, and possible ongoing work.
If you are wondering if you need a Lawyer, then you likely need one. It is better to find out what your legal rights and obligations are sooner than later.
The first consult fee usually is well worth it as it will give you peace of mind. Many Lawyers offer free consults, or you can investigate pro-bono organizations that may be able to help you for free if you cannot afford the legal fees.
It is good to ask your Lawyer what experience they have in matters similar to yours. If you are looking for a divorce Lawyer, ask them how long they have practiced in that field of law.
Then go further if it is likely that your divorce will be a contested divorce, ask them if they have ever handled a contested divorce trial, and, if so, how many divorce trials they have handled.
Also, ask them if they will argue the matter themselves or if they will get another Lawyer or advocate/barrister to assist them with the trial.
When you interview your Lawyer, ask them in person if they specialize in a field of law, or if they are general practitioners. If they are general practitioners, it does not necessarily mean that they do not know enough of a particular field of law.
The geographical area of practice may also be significant, and you must make sure that they practice in the court's territory where the matter will be heard.
You can ask the Lawyer for how long they have practiced law or in a specific field of law. Even if they have not practiced for a long time, you will know what to expect from that Lawyer. A newly qualified Lawyer that has experience in a specific field may be more than adequate to deal with your legal problem.
You can ask the Lawyer where they have studied law and what qualifications they have. It is sometimes required for Lawyers to obtain additional qualifications before they can practice in a specific field of law, such a patent law.
Communication or a lack thereof is one of the biggest complaints against Lawyers. Discuss the Lawyer or law firm's general guidelines about communication and feedback to their clients.
You will find that some firms have policies in place stating how and when they will respond to clients’ needs.
Most Lawyers will also be happy to accommodate you if you inform them how often you require feedback. Some clients require weekly feedback, while others only require feedback when something significant happens.
Ask your Lawyer about their availability and how long they will take to respond to phone calls, emails, and other requests. Also, ask what to do during an emergency.
Trial Lawyers, generally, provide very little feedback to other matters while they are amid a trial. The reason for that is that a trial, especially longer trials, can be all-consuming requiring their full attention.
This is the reason why most Lawyers have a proper infrastructure in place with highly qualified support staff. They can assist you to urgently get hold of your Lawyer or to schedule appointments between you and your Lawyer.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a conflict of interest is “a situation in which someone cannot make a fair decision because they will be affected by the result."
The Lawyer must disclose any possible conflict of interest, but they may not even be aware of the potential conflict of interest when you first consult with them.
Law firms, especially firms that handle work for many different business clients, may only become aware of a conflict when they do their due diligence - after obtaining information from you.
Therefore, if you suspect that your Lawyer may have a conflict of interest, it is best to ask them about that possible conflict.
The billing of legal fees can again be a significant issue between you and your Lawyer.
Establish upfront how you will be billed. Make sure that you know the hourly rate if your Lawyer bills by the hour. Will the hourly rate be inclusive or exclusive of VAT?
Ask what you receive in exchange for the fees. Always remember that Lawyers sell their time. It is not always easy to give a cost estimation, and many Lawyers will tell you when it comes to litigation, 'how long is a piece of string'?
You can always ask for a set fee quote, and your Lawyer will likely agree to this if they can estimate the time involved for them to finalize the matter. For a criminal case, you may agree to a set fee per day of trial, or for a set fee for a bail application.
In some matters, your Lawyer may agree to work on a contingency fee with regard to your case. Make sure that you fully understand how that works and what your responsibilities will be. This is generally in personal injury and medical malpractice matters. It merely means that the Lawyer will take a percentage of the fees if they are successful with your case.
Lawyers usually also add sundry costs to their billing, such as postage, experts' fees, etcetera. Ask your Lawyer to tell you in advance of any possible charges so that you know what to expect.
Expect to pay more for more senior Lawyers or Lawyers with specialized skills.
Ask in advance of the estimated cost of a matter. If your Lawyer has handled many similar cases, they should be able to give you at least a ballpark figure of the price.
You have the right to know if your Lawyer has been accused or convicted of any cases of misconduct. It is always good to do your own research with your local Bar Association.
You should ask your Lawyer how the attorney/client relationship can end. Usually, it will be when the work is done, and payment is made. But what happens if the Lawyer leaves the law firm to work somewhere else, will your matter go with them, or will another Lawyer in the firm take the file over.
If you are not happy with the service or the advice, can you simply instruct them to transfer the file to another law firm. What happens to the deposit if you cancel their service?
Your Lawyer should provisionally evaluate your case and give you options as to how you should proceed with your case.
Is there a possibility of settling the matter before litigation? Discuss this with your Lawyer. Maybe your matter relates to a contract, and you have compulsory mediation before you can proceed with litigation. Your Lawyer should be able to give you a preliminary assessment of your matter.
Discuss the likely outcome of your case. Be mindful if a Lawyer gives you a guarantee. They should never give a guarantee as the practice of law can be very unpredictable.
Debate the estimated duration of the matter, as this can play a vital roll in your strategy.
Your Lawyer should be able to discuss a basic strategy that can be employed from the start. Also, ask them to explain the pros and cons of the approach. Just remember that strategy can change.
It is not only the client that has expectations. Ask your Lawyer what they require from you. They may need years' worth of bank statements or other information that only you can supply. It is good to know what your Lawyer expects from you.
Some law firms will let you have a consult with a different Lawyer to the one that will work on your matter. Or, the Lawyer may let a paralegal do some of the work. Make sure that you understand who will do what.
Your Lawyer should, in any event, oversee and be involved in making the decisions in the matter and make sure that the work is done correctly. If your Lawyer cannot be involved for whatever reason, such as an extended trial, they must explain to you who will handle the matter in the interim and why this other Lawyer will be able to assist you while your Lawyer is unavailable.
You must understand how your Lawyer works, as they will not likely change the way that they work just for you.
They may not mind increasing or decrease communication with you, but if you want a specific trial Lawyer for a matter, you must understand that as they do trial work; they may not always be able to respond as fast as you require.