What to Know About Hiring a Lawyer for the First Time
If you’ve never hired a lawyer before, it can be intimidating, to say the least. Knowing what to expect is an important part of finding the right attorney to represent you and managing your own expectations.
There are certain scenarios where you could be weighing whether or not to hire a lawyer. For example, maybe you were in a car accident, and you’re dealing with a who-hit-who situation. You could also need a lawyer if you’re dealing with an employment issue, or a civil issue such as a divorce or child custody. If you’re starting a business, it can be another good time to hire a lawyer to ensure you’re well-protected.
The Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer
The following are some of the most important reasons to hire a lawyer.
- Dealing with legal issues and how the law is written is very complicated. Even a lawyer who specializes in one area may need to hire a lawyer for their own personal reasons if those reasons are outside of their area of specialty. Something that might seem straightforward often is not when it comes to the law. A lawyer is someone who not only understands even the most subtle nuances of the law but also someone who is emotionally detached from your case, and that’s valuable.
- Some people will try to go into legal situations without hiring a lawyer to save money, but that’s probably going to end up costing you more in the long-run.
- One mistake, such as not meeting a deadline to file a document, can destroy your case.
- It’s much easier to avoid legal problems initially than trying to fix a mistake later on.
- If the other party has legal representation, it would be difficult if not almost impossible for you to represent yourself effectively.
- When you have a lawyer working for you, they can challenge evidence. That’s important because evidence may have been improperly obtained against you, and a lawyer can make sure that evidence is suppressed properly.
- If you need access to experts or witnesses, a lawyer can help with arranging these things.
- Since lawyers are typically experienced and have seen a lot of cases similar to your own, they’ll know about negotiating settlements and when a settlement is your best choice versus when you should go to trial.
How to Hire a Lawyer
When you’re hiring a lawyer, a good place to start is with referrals. Ask friends, family, or business associates if they’ve worked with someone they can recommend.
You should likely look for a specialist rather than a general lawyer. As was touched on above, the law is incredibly complex, and a general practitioner may not have the level of expertise you need. For example, if you’re dealing with business licensing, it’s going to be a lot different than going through a divorce.
You really need someone who’s not only going to meet your needs professionally but someone who you “click” with. Personality is important because this is someone you’re going to be sharing a lot of potentially personal information with and someone you need to feel like you can trust.
You need someone who’s going to communicate well with you and do so promptly. Lawyers can be notoriously bad communicators, so when you’re deciding on who to work with, talk with them about how quickly they typically answer client questions and respond to communication.
What is a Retainer?
Depending on your circumstances, you might need a lawyer on retainer. A lawyer on retainer means that you pay upfront, and then you have access to legal services when you need them.
A retainer agreement means you’re paying a retainer fee. This doesn’t mean you have a lawyer on retainer but is instead more like a prepayment or a down payment. When you pay a lawyer a retainer, you’re securing their services and showing that you’re serious about hiring them.
These prepayment funds are used throughout a case, and they’re kept in a separate account. You may then need to pay more legal fees, depending on the specifics of your case. Personal injury lawyers work a little differently, at least as far as payment.
Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency. This means that your lawyer will get a percentage of the money you’re paid in a judgment following a trial or a portion of your settlement. You don’t have to pay for your consultation, nor do you have to worry about billable hours in these scenarios.
Instead, your lawyer will listen to your story, and will then let you know upfront how much they’ll take from the funds you receive. You sign a contract with them after that. Some lawyers might charge a flat fee if you just need them to do one thing in particular, like writing a document or closing out an uncontested divorce.
If your lawyer charges an hourly rate, make sure you know what it is in advance. A more experienced lawyer’s hourly rate may be higher, but they might also be able to work faster. You should also get an estimate of how many hours a lawyer thinks they’ll need to complete your case.
Preparing For Your First Meeting
When an attorney meets with a prospective client for the first time, it’s an initial consultation. This meeting is when a lawyer goes over the details of your potential case with you and gets relevant information. A lawyer can decide whether they’re interested in your case during this time, and you can decide if this is the person you want to work with.
There are some things you should do to prepare for the initial consultation. First, write down questions you have so you don’t forget them. If there’s any information you want to share with your lawyer, write that down as well.
Finally, if you currently have any relevant documents, bring them, and you might also want to bring someone you trust with you to the meeting because they can help you remember all the important information you went over.