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----------------------------------------CHOOSE AN ATTORNEY
HOW TO FIND A LAWYER
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Lawyers help prevent problems from reoccurring in the future, but people should consider several factors before hiring an attorney. The most common reasons for people to consult with attorneys are if they are arrested or accused of a crime; family matters, such as divorce or adoption; a lawsuit is brought against them; real estate transactions, such as buying or selling a house; making a will or planning an estate; and starting or buying a business.
Also individuals should work with lawyers when they are unable to resolve issues with a government agency, such as tax, immigration, Social Security, workers compensation or veteran’s or pension benefits; someone who does not perform satisfactory work or fails to honor guarantees or warranties; and when someone refuses to pay funds to which another is entitled or tries to collect money another doesn’t owe.
While other agencies – reputable bankers, accountants, real estate salespeople, tax firms, investment counselors, the Better Business Bureau and federal, state or local governments – may be helpful in certain circumstances, people should consult a lawyer when a lawyer can offer appropriate services. Some law firms offer free consultation. Others require a fee for initial meeting, but that is usually in the financial means for most people.
FINDING LAWYERS’ NAMES
• Ask a friend. The most useful information will come from people who have experienced similar problems.
• Ask a trustworthy professional, such as a doctor, minister, social worker, banker or business person.
• Visit the local library. Many libraries have law directories that provide brief biographies of lawyers.
• Telephone books also contain listings of local attorneys. Some lawyers list their preferred areas of practice, others include their certifications.
CHOOSING THE LAWYER
Investigate before choosing a lawyer. Call the lawyers’ offices before deciding on which attorney to hire. People should find out with whom they are speaking, then briefly explain their problem. Then ask a series of questions:
• Does the lawyer have experience with this kind of problem?
• Does the lawyer charge for an initial interview? If so, what is the charge?
• If you believe your problem is routine, does the lawyer have a standard fee for this kind of problem? What does the fee cover?
• If your problem is more complicated or the lawyer does not have a standard fee, what is the lawyer’s hourly fee?
• Does the lawyer provide a written agreement describing fees and services provided for the fees?
People should keep a list of these inquiries and the call back the lawyer who most satisfies the given situation.
THE FIRST INTERVIEW
Go into the first interview with an open mind. People should remember they don’t have to hire the lawyer with whom they meet. Individuals may take time to decide if the lawyer meets personal requirements after meeting with the attorney for the first time.
For the initial meeting, people should bring a written summary or detailed notes outlining their problem. Also, people should bring the following:
• Names, addresses and phone numbers of everyone involved. This may include companies and individuals.
• Documents that are part of the case, including those received from lawyers or courts, receipts, contracts, medical bills, repair estimates and checks. Some lawyers may ask people to deliver written materials in advance of your first interview in order to have adequate time to review them
People should keep copies of all documents, and may even want to take copies to the initial interview. Also for the first meeting, people should prepare a list of questions for the lawyer. These may include:
• Are you specialized and experienced in my type of problem?
• Will you or one of your associates handle my case?
• Will you regularly contact me about my case’s status?
• Will I be provided with copies of all important documents, and will there be a charge for those documents?
• Will I be able to make the final decision on my case?
• What is your estimate of time needed to complete my case?
People should remember they are hiring lawyers to work for them. The attorneys should be genuinely interested in the problem and in giving the possible advice. Lawyers may not always accomplish everything the clients want because of the facts or laws that apply to the case. Usually, the best advice lawyers can give their clients will be to avoid court costs. Mediation is often used to resolve matters.
The client should develop expectations for the lawyer. The attorney should:
• Give the client frank, honest advice.
• Tell the client the strong and weak points of the case.
• Keep appropriate parties informed and follow the client’s instructions within the bounds of the laws.
• Protect and defend the client. The lawyer should not make any agreements or take on any obligation that might jeopardize the client’s rights or interest.
• Provide an itemized bill of all the work done for the client and all expenses incurred on the client’s behalf.
• Provide a written agreement.