The legal system is hard to navigate through alone; whether you need someone to fight your personal injury case or sue a company for negligence, a well-regarded attorney is what you need. But how do you choose one?
According to the American Bar Association’s Profile of the Legal Profession, in 2020, there were roughly 1.3 million lawyers in the US. As we stand in 2023, there is a chance this number may have increased since then. Hence, as more attorneys enter the pool of the legal system, you may find it hard to pick the right one for you. However, choosing a lawyer is all about researching and looking for certain qualities that make them worth your money.
So, for your understanding, here are some factors you should consider when you choose your lawyer:
Area of Expertise
Lawyers, like doctors, specialize in specific fields. Think of it this way: if you want to get your heart examined, you won’t go to a neurologist; instead, you will see a cardiologist. The same rule applies to lawyers. The attorney you pick needs to have the relevant specialization. For example, cerebral palsy is a condition in which an individual’s ability to move and maintain their balance and posture gets heavily impacted.
About 20% of cases of cerebral palsy occur at birth due to medical negligence. Hence, if your child unfortunately belongs to this category, then you need a cerebral palsy lawyer who can build your case and hold the hospital responsible. If you go to a family lawyer or those specializing in vehicular accidents, they cannot assist you. For this reason, the lawyer you pick must be an expert in your situation.
Within the US, every state has different laws. For example, the Statute of limitation in a personal injury case in Arkansas is about three years, but in California, the timeline is only about two years. That is why always choose a lawyer who operates in your state and is well aware of the legal limitations that have been set by your state laws. Additionally, your lawyer will provide the guidance you need within the framework set by your state.
Experience builds a lawyer and gives them the skills to fight any case. Always choose a lawyer who has worked in the legal system for a while. The years they have dedicated to their profession reflect their experience, intellect, and professionalism. The best way to learn about your lawyer’s experience is by visiting their website.
Most law firms are pretty transparent about their lawyer’s credibility and will give you the details you want. You can add to your research by looking up reviews on your lawyer online. Read what other clients have said about your legal expert, and once you’re satisfied with the ratings, schedule a consultation with them.
There is no denying that hiring a lawyer is an expensive process. So, before you proceed with an attorney, you must figure out if they fit your budget. Law firms set their rates and get to decide how they want to bill their clients. An attorney can bill according to one of the four fee arrangements: hourly, contingency, retainer, or flat fee. You need to understand how each billing system works, so here’s a glimpse into them:
- Hourly. This entails that you will be charged by the hour anytime you speak to your lawyer. So, whether you arrange a visitation online, over the phone, or in person, you will get charged an hourly rate. If your case is extensive and complex, getting charged by the hour can cost you a fortune.
- Retainer Fees. This is an advanced payment you make to your lawyer for all their services. Consider it as a type of down payment that you need to make to your lawyer. Every attorney sets a retainer fee before you can use their service. Most lawyers who charge hourly will require you to pay a retainer fee at the beginning to cover a certain number of hours. Once you pay the retainer fee, all your future invoices will be charged from it. However, if your lawyer ends up working longer than what the retainer was covering, then you will be billed an outstanding fee.
- Flat Fee. This is a standard rate that you get charged for certain services, irrespective of how long the work takes. Most lawyers charge a flat fee for simple tasks like preparing your will. While it may seem expensive at first to pay a lump sum amount, in the long run, you end up saving money. Although, there’s a slight catch: a flat fee doesn’t cover everything. You need to speak to your lawyer to understand what services this amount will cater to. For example, some lawyers charge separately for filing your case along with a flat fee.
- Contingent Fee. Certain lawyers only charge you once your case is settled. This entails that you will be charged a certain percentage of the monetary settlement from your case once you get the money. Contingent fees are primarily charged in civil lawsuits such as medical malpractice. The rate varies by state, but most lawyers charge you 33% of the winning.
Furthermore, you should find out if the money you pay covers shipping, filing, and traveling. In most cases, lawyers bill you separately for it. Therefore, ensure your budget is large enough to pay for these expenses, too. But don’t worry; your lawyer is required to provide you with an overview of their fee structure when you’re considering hiring them. They cannot have hidden charges or spring a surprise bill on you.
You and your lawyer will be working together for a long time, so you need to be comfortable around them. Your lawyer needs to know every relevant detail about your case; if you struggle to communicate with them, you may need a new lawyer. Therefore, when choosing a lawyer, pick someone with whom you can discuss your case openly and trust they won’t jeopardize your claim.
Moreover, your choice of lawyer should be nonjudgmental, respectful, and attentive during meetings. They should also keep you in the loop at all times without the need for you to chase them as your case proceeds. This is why when curating a list of factors on what your lawyer should have, ensure you include compatibility, too.
Choosing a lawyer can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Understand that legal cases are challenging, which infers you cannot skimp the process of picking the right lawyer for yourself. Therefore, you can facilitate the process by being clear about what traits you want in an attorney. These include their experience, location, and cost, among other factors. So, draft a list of what you want in your lawyer and ensure they have all the qualities to help you win your case.