Finding the best representation is important in situations where you need a lawyer. Here are 7 key questions to ask a lawyer before hiring them.

Choosing a lawyer can be a difficult task. There are over 3.5 million lawyers in the United States. You need a strategy to decide which one is right for you.

Finding the best representation is important in situations where you need a lawyer. Here are 7 key questions to ask a lawyer before hiring them.

Questions to Ask a Lawyer

Whether you need a lawyer to represent you in court, handle a personal injury claim, or draft a will, choosing the right lawyer can be daunting. You need the right person for the job, but how do you decide?

All lawyers are not the same. They have different training and different experience. As in any profession, some do a better job than others.

As with any decision about buying something, you need some information about the goods or services before you can make the decision. You're in the driving seat and you're entitled to ask some questions before you commit.

1. What Experience Do You Have of This Kind of Case?

Lawyers tend to specialize in specific areas of the law. Some may specialize in divorce law or personal injury law while others focus on criminal or corporate law.

Check their site or ask them directly about their experience. You should choose a lawyer with relevant experience.

Everybody has to start somewhere. All lawyers have to learn their job and get some experience. They learn a lot from their first few cases, but do you want to be the client they practice on?

Ask about how much experience your prospective lawyer has and how successful they have been. If they have taken cases to court, what were the results? Do they practice in the specific courts and with the judges you are likely to face?

2. What Training Do You Have for This Kind of Case?

As well as the general training that all lawyers get, they can have specialized training for specific areas of the law. Asking about this training can help you decide if they have the right knowledge and skills to represent you.

If you were about to be operated on by a surgeon, you might be happy to know that they were very experienced. If you then found out that they had completed their training 30-years ago, you might have some doubts about them. Have they kept up to date with the latest techniques and treatments?

Lawyers are expected to maintain their professional expertise through continuous professional development. Ask what training they have had for your kind of case and how they have kept up to date.

3. Who Will Be Working on My Case?

You might think, if you chose to work with a particular lawyer, that will be the person doing the work. In fact, other people may also be working on the case.

Lawyers in a law firm often work with other more junior associates who may conduct some of the simpler aspects of the work. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It can save you money as paralegals and junior associates are less expensive than a lawyer.

You do want your lawyer to oversee all aspects of the case and make the key decisions. If others are involved in key aspects of the case, ask about their capability to do this.

4. What Ways Are There to Resolve This Case?

Ask a prospective lawyer how they propose to handle the case. There may be several alternative ways to reach a satisfactory conclusion, and your lawyer should explain these and why they would choose a specific approach. Ask what the advantages and disadvantages of each approach are.

In a trial case, there may be alternatives, including negotiating a resolution. Plea bargaining in criminal cases or an out of court settlement in a civil case may be options. Are these options being considered?

Some approaches are less risky and potentially less expensive than formal legal proceedings. Arbitration is sometimes an option. In arbitration, a private service is engaged to resolve a dispute and can be cheaper, quicker, and less complex.

It may be the case that avoiding going to court is the best option for you. This might mean less revenue for the lawyer, but a good lawyer should be acting in your interests. They should recommend these approaches if they are right for you.

5. How Will You Let Me Know What's Happening?

A good lawyer should be a good communicator. Ask the lawyer how they will keep you informed? Ask whether you will be able to contact them.

Regular or frequent communication is not necessarily needed in every case, but it's likely that the legal process will involve certain important stages when communication is appropriate. Ask about these stages. Ask how you will know what is happening and when you should expect to be informed of progress.

Ask for the lawyer's contact details and give them yours. Agree on how you will keep in touch.

6. What Do You Believe the Outcome Will Be?

It's not always possible for a lawyer to predict the outcome of a legal matter with certainty. There are often too many variables. They should be able to give you an honest assessment of how things will pan out.

If there appear to be obstacles to a good outcome, your lawyer should be able to identify them. For example, a difficult divorce or a poor criminal defense case might need you to be prepared for the bad news. Their honest professional opinion is more valuable than telling you what they think you want to hear.

Even if the lawyer cannot predict the outcome of a case, they may be able to tell you something about timescales. Ask how long the case is likely to take. Ask them what aspects of the timescale are within their control and which are not so you can at least understand how they are performing.

7. What Will This Cost Me?

Sometimes legal matters can be resolved for a fixed price. Other matters may be charged at an hourly rate. Ask what you will be charged for your lawyer's services.

Also, ask what other costs there may be. It's possible that expenses are charged separately, and these can come to a significant amount. 

Make Your Choice

Don't choose your legal representation by selecting the lawyer at the top of an alphabetical list of names. Armed with these questions to ask a lawyer, make a sensible choice. It might make the difference between success and failure.

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