You Have the Right to an Attorney: How to Choose the Right Lawyer (and Why it Matters)
Everyone hopes they’ll never need a lawyer. After all, lawyers can be intimidating. Maybe you’ve seen one too many law shows on television and you’re nervous that if you hire a lawyer, you’ll somehow look guilty of a crime. Maybe you’re simply scared that an attorney will cost a lot of money. The truth is, however, that a lawyer can help you in a variety of ways. Whether you need legal representation in court or you simply want advice that only a lawyer can offer, it’s important that you find the right attorney for your needs.
Decide what type of lawyer you need
Your first step in choosing an attorney is to determine what type of lawyer you need. Before you can choose your legal specialty, however, you’ll need to figure out exactly why you need to talk with an attorney. Do you need immediate legal representation because you’re in jail? You need a criminal defense attorney. Are you interested in adopting a child from overseas? You’ll want an adoption attorney. Most lawyers specialize in specific areas of law. Because of this, choosing the right type of attorney will ensure that you get the most out of your time and your money. You wouldn’t hire a banker to help you fix your car, so why would you hire a criminal defense attorney to help you write your will?
Do your own research
Once you know what type of lawyer you need, you’ll want to do some research to determine which local lawyer is best suited to meet your needs. In general, it’s best to hire someone who resides in the same town as you. This is because your lawyer can and will charge you traveling fees if he has to drive to meet you in a different area. You can ask friends and relatives for advice, of course, and this is a fantastic way to find someone who is personable and friendly to help you. If you don’t want to advertise the fact that you need legal counsel, however, you may want to look online. There are a number of different review sites that will offer testimonials as to which lawyers in your area are fantastic and which ones should be avoided.
Also remember that you can visit legal websites to find out more information about local lawyers and what they offer. Did you know that your local lawyer probably has information about his background, testimonials from clients, and information on his rates online? This is also a great place to find out about any discounts or specials your lawyer may be offering.
Ask for a consultation
Once you’ve decided on a lawyer, call and request a consultation. This could be on the phone or in person. Typically, you can request a free 15 or 20 minute consultation. While you won’t be able to get a lot of advice from this free phone call, it offers you a way to determine if you’re a good match for this lawyer. You’ll explain your situation and your lawyer will offer you some information on how he can help with your case. This also offers a great time to find out what a lawyer charges since for most people, the lawyer’s rate can make a huge difference in whether or not you use him.
If you feel uncomfortable with the way that a consultation goes, never be afraid to seek out a consultation from another lawyer. Remember that even if you get a free consultation, you are under no obligation to hire that particular attorney. Never feel bullied or tricked into hiring someone just because you spoke with them on the phone. Your attorney will be working with you personally and on a regular basis, so you’ll want to make sure that you meet with someone who makes you feel comfortable and at ease.
Hire your attorney
Once you find an attorney who meets your needs, it’s time to commit to them. Speak with your attorney about the steps for becoming a client. Typically, your lawyer will bill you per-hour or he’ll have you pay a retainer fee. This is a prepayment type of situation and works well if you feel more comfortable paying up front. Keep in mind that in addition to your lawyer’s per-hour rate, you’ll be charged for hours that he spends working on the case, time he spends traveling, any courtroom appearances, and in-office supplies like printer paper and ink. This is normal, but will add to the overall cost of your attorney. You can always ask for an estimate when you hire an attorney and of course, it’s okay to discuss your budget.