Hiring a lawyer for the first time can be a very daunting experience.  Knowing what to expect when looking for a lawyer may help prevent hardship in the long run.  Hiring the right lawyer for you and your particular situation can make a big difference in the overall outcome of your case, and may make a big impact on your future.  Make sure you are looking for the right qualities in a lawyer.  Just like physicians or any other professionals, while there is a minimum standard they must meet to practice, some lawyers are better than others.  Below are a few criteria that you should consider:

1. Ask friends and family.  Word of mouth is the most common way that potential clients learn about lawyers they may want to hire.  Unlike advertising, you are able to gain a deeper insight into what an experience is like dealing with a particular lawyer.  When talking about lawyers with friends and family, make sure to ask as specific and detailed questions as possible.

2. Do some quick research.  Today, with the Internet it is very simple and easy to check an attorney’s background and experience.  Do a search for the attorney’s name and you might be surprised what you find.

3. Get a Feel for the Attorney’s Experience.  Before hiring an attorney, you need to know what he or she has done in the past, and the areas in which his or her practice concentrates.  It is not necessary that the attorney have overwhelming plethora of experience in your desired area; in fact, sometimes an attorney with a few years of experience can be more effective than a lawyer who has practiced in that particular area of law for a very long time.  Keep in mind also that just because a lawyer has been in practice for a very long time, it doesn’t mean that he or she has extensive experience in your desired area of law.  One type of law can be very different from another, and hiring a lawyer who matches what you are trying to accomplish is crucial for ensuring the greatest probability of a favorable outcome.  One lawyer may be great in one particular area, but cannot effectively handle a case in another area.

4. Understand the Attorney’s Style.  Attorneys are human beings first, and each has his or her own unique “bedside manner”.  Some are very gentle and diplomatic, and others are very aggressive and direct.  There’s no right answer here.  It is simply a personal preference, but one that can make a difference between a lasting professional relationship or a potential pitfall for breakdowns in communication between the client and the lawyer.  As well, each attorney has a unique style when it comes to handling his or her cases.  One of the purposes for an initial consultation is for the client and lawyer to get to know each other to determine if the representation will be a “good fit”.

5. Cost.  This may sound counter-intuitive, but cost, while still important, should be given the least weight when determining which attorney to hire.  Going through the phone book and hiring the lawyer who gives you the lowest bid can sometimes lead to disastrous results.  Just keep in mind that, often times, you get what you pay for.  Know whether the attorney is taking your case by the hour, on a flat fee, or on a contingency.  If hourly, then know what the attorney’s hourly rate is, and what policies the attorney uses in calculating your bill.  Knowing up front what these office policies are can avoid conflicts later.

A common practice in the legal profession is to require what is called a “retainer” for legal work.  In its most common usage, “retainer” often means a “special retainer”.  A “special retainer” is a deposit, held in the attorney’s trust account, on the Client’s behalf, to secure payment to the attorney as the legal work is completed.  Funds only transfer from the trust to the attorney upon a periodic itemized invoice (typically monthly) detailing the work performed during that period, and the remainder of the unearned funds remain the property of the client until they are properly transferred.

Hiring an attorney based on the least retainer amount required is a horrible idea.  The retainer has little or nothing to do with the attorney’s actual price.  The retainer amount has more to do with the amount of security that the attorney receives for payment during the course of the representation.  Typically, more successful attorneys will require a higher retainer amount due to a higher opportunity cost–that is, the potential opportunities to work for other clients (with guaranteed funds) that the attorney must give up in order to pursue work on your behalf.

We at Bardine Law offer FREE CONSULTATIONS for the purpose of giving the client a chance to try us out.  If you have a legal issue that you need help with, use our Contact Us on our page.