Ask friends, relatives, and co-workers who have used an attorney or know an attorney for their recommendations. If that attorney cannot handle your kind of case, they may be able to provide a recommendation for someone who can. Other sources for attorneys are identified below:
- Use an Attorney Referral Service listed in the telephone book. They will try to give you a referral to an attorney in your community who does the kind of work you need
- Consult the Yellow Pages, search on-line, or go to the local library and consult a legal directory.
- If you might qualify for legal assistance based on your income, call the Legal Services Office nearest you (listed in the phone book).
- Does he or she normally handle cases like yours?
- Does the attorney seem familiar with the area of law involved in your case?
- How many cases like this has the attorney handled and how successful has he or she been, if you can find out?
- How long has the attorney been in practice?
- Is the attorney involved in the community?
- Is the attorney involved with the Bar Association and active in his or her professional community?
- Has the attorney had complaints about past performance?
If any of the following statements are true and apply to your situation, you should consider consulting with or hiring an attorney:
- I tried to resolve this matter by speaking directly with “the other side” and it didn’t work.
- I am being threatened with legal action by a person or company, or I am involved in a situation where I might get sued.
- I need someone to champion my cause or speak for me.
- I have been served with papers (summons, complaint, warrant, subpoena, etc.).
- The “other side” has an attorney.
- There are significant financial or other serious implications and the potential outcome is worth the cost of hiring an attorney.
- It is an important matter with serious legal consequences and obligations, such as signing a contract, starting a business, writing a will, or purchasing or selling a home.
Hourly Rates: The fee is based on the amount of time the attorney spends working on your case.
Fixed Fee: This is a flat fee charged for a routine service such as an uncontested divorce, a simple bankruptcy, or a will.
Contingent Fee: The attorney receives a percentage of any amounts recovered on behalf of the client, plus expenses.
Note: A fee agreement may combine any of the above fee arrangements.
Costs to process a case may include the following:
- Filing Fees, including e-filing fees
- Deposition transcription fees
- Phone Calls
- Serving Papers
- Witness Fees
- Computer-Related Costs
- Travel Expenses
When you meet with an attorney, below are some questions you might ask them about their fees:
- Is there a charge for the initial consultation?
- How do you charge for a case like mine?
- If it is a fixed fee case, what is the fixed fee?
- If it is and hourly fee, how much is the hourly rate? In addition, ask for the hourly rates for all personnel that may be involved in your case, e.g. paralegals, investigators, etc.
- If it is a contingency fee case how will that work and what will the percentages be?
- What charges are included in the fee?
- What charges are not included in the fee?
- What is this likely to cost me?
- Is there a retainer? If so how much?
- Your attorney should respond to your questions promptly and clearly
- Your attorney should keep you informed about the progress in your case. • Your attorney should discuss your expectations for the case with you.
- Your attorney should return your calls and emails within a reasonable amount of time.
- Your attorney should discuss with you how long he or she expects the case to last.
- Your attorney should discuss alternatives with you as the case goes along.
- Your attorney should discuss possible outcomes of the case with you.
- Enthusiastic and competent representation of your case. • Copies of all important documents.
- A written fee agreement and detailed monthly billing statements.
- The whole truth, even if it hurts.
- To be kept fully informed.
- To be treated with respect.
- A negotiated settlement if both sides reach a fair agreement.
- Agreement with your goals and an understanding of your objective.
- No conflict of interest with the opposing side.
- Timely return of phone calls and/or emails.
- Provide the attorney with any information or documentation you have about the case and be completely honest about all facts in your case, whether the information is favorable to you or not.
- Follow agreed-upon advice.
- Ask questions when you don’t understand and speak up when you disagree.
- Be on time for appointments or notify your attorney if you need to cancel or reschedule an appointment.
- Notify your attorney about changes in your case; take responsibility for keeping your attorney informed.
- Pay your attorney a reasonable fee promptly for the work performed.
TIP: You can save time and attorney fees by providing your attorney with as much information as possible. Organize all documents that are related to your case, write things down that might be important to your case and bring them with you when you meet with your attorney.