Hints for Choosing the Right Lawyer
Lawyers are permitted to practise in all areas of law, but in reality, every lawyer has areas of law in which he or she is more experienced and comfortable. How do you find the lawyer who is right for you?
First of all, it may be useful to ask people you trust for a referral. If someone from your family, a friend, or a business acquaintance is sufficiently pleased with their lawyer to recommend him or her to you, then that lawyer will merit consideration. However, don’t just accept the judgement of others. You should certainly contact that lawyer directly to form your own opinion.
This process in itself may be a valuable learning experience. Ask yourself: when you phone the lawyer to initiate contact, do you get through to the lawyer, or are you “screened off” by the staff? Of course at the time you call, the lawyer may be out of the office or meeting with another client. If so, then you should leave a message requesting a call back. Does the lawyer return your call, and if so how soon? If not for a day or two, then you must consider how promptly you will be able to get a response if you need urgent legal advice in the future.
When you do speak with the lawyer, discuss the type of services you need. Ask the lawyer how much of that type of law they do — make sure that you do not retain a strictly real estate lawyer for your criminal defence, or vice versa.
Another topic that should be covered at an early stage is the cost of the services. Some matters, like real estate deals, are usually done for a fixed fee plus disbursements. Others, like litigation, are entirely dependent on the actual time spent. Even in the latter situation, the lawyer should be able to quote you their hourly rate and estimate the costs for at least the preliminary stages.
This initial dialogue can also provide an opportunity for another useful assessment. Does the lawyer provide you with just the minimum information requested, or take the time to discuss and explain things for you? If the lawyer is thorough and helpful at this point, he ore she is likely to remain so throughout the lawyer-client relationship. It is crucial that there be good communication, and it is the lawyer’s responsibilty to ensure that the client understands.
While these tips may not guarantee that the lawyer you choose is right for you, they will certainly increase your chance of establishing a satisfactory and lasting professional association.