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Tips for Selecting an Attorney

Photo of Karen Lavin

When you are in the process of selecting an attorney to represent you in a legal matter, consider preparing some questions before your consultation. To determine if the lawyer is a good fit for you, you will first want to find out about his or her experience. Some of the questions should include:

· Do you handle cases like mine?

· How many cases have you done in the past year?

· What are my chances of success?

· Do I have a good case?

· If I hire you and your firm, who will actually do the work? Will it be you, another attorney, a paralegal, or a law clerk?

The attorney's fees are another critical topic to discuss at the initial consultation. Before you engage a lawyer to take your case, here are some questions to ask:

· Do you charge for the initial consultation? If so, how much?

· How do you charge your clients: by a flat fee, an hourly rate, or by a contingency fee (this is an arrangement by which a percentage of any recovery such as damages is paid to the attorney, but only if you are successful at trial)?

· If the lawyer charges by contingency, what is the lawyer's percentage, and do your expenses come from your percentage or the attorney's?

· What out-of-pocket expenses are estimated for your case (filing fees, transcripts, expert witness fees, private investigation costs, etc.)?

· How long will your case take to complete?

· Does the attorney require a retainer (upfront money)?

· Will you receive itemized bills on a periodic basis? If so, how often or after what specific events? Are there any procedures in place to spread out the payments?

· Will you have copies of all documents pertaining to your case? If so, will it cost additional money and how much?

· If any of the work is performed by your staff (paralegal, clerks, etc.), will my bill be less?

Once you have decided upon an attorney, you should get the fee arrangement and any other important agreement in writing, in order to protect both you and your lawyer.

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