If you are in need of legal counsel, it’s likely that you’ve found yourself in a situation that is unfamiliar to you and that may be causing a certain level of anxiety. It is common to worry about whether or not you are hiring the right person, especially in the case of legal matters. The good news is that by taking a little bit of time to ask some really simple questions, you can make an informed decision and get the best lawyer for you.
When questioning a potential lawyer, you really want to try to get a handle on their experience level. Here are several questions that can help you out.
Have you tried previous cases like mine?
This is extremely important. While every novice lawyer needs opportunities to gain experience, you may not want to be their guinea pig. Make sure they have sufficient experience in the area of service that you require. Experience is valuable.
Have you ever tried a case in the courthouse where my case will be held?
A regular presence and experience with the personnel at the courthouse can be a huge help. That’s not to say that familiarity will give you any preferential treatment, but that lawyers who are familiar with clerks, assistants, and judges know how to navigate the courtroom and how to evaluate likely outcomes in your case.
Have you ever been sanctioned for or accused of attorney misconduct?
You not only need to know, but have the right to know whether or not a potential lawyer has ever violated (or been formally accused of violating) the rules of their profession. Previous misconduct or accusations don’t always mean that a lawyer is unqualified to help you, but you need to be aware in advance so that you can make an informed decision. If they have, consider how much time has past since the accusation or sanction and whether or not it has happened more than once. This can help you determine if you’re dealing with an unethical lawyer or someone who has learned from past mistakes.
Are there any conflicts of interest related to your potential involvement in my case?
While every attorney has the ethical and professional obligation to inform potential clients of any conflict of interest, it’s always a good idea to ask up front. You want to know if they have any limits on their ability to represent you to the best of their abilities. Examples of a conflict of interest could be a lawyer who has previously represented the hospital that you are suing for malpractice or personal or professional relationships with the lawyer representing the other party. Not every conflict is a disqualifying one, but you are under no obligation to hire a lawyer that you are concerned may not represent you with your best interests at the forefront of their concerns.
Finally, you should also find out information related to fees and expenses, communication channels and frequency, how long the trial could/should take, alternatives to going to trial, and what your role in preparing for the case needs to be. As is the case in any important undertaking, you can never be too informed on the issue and the only way to get informed is to ask questions…lots of questions. Do your research. It could make all the difference.