When Should You Hire an Attorney? How Do You Decide?
I have spent the past 40 years hiring, firing and working with lawyers and law firms. The importance of whether you need to hire an attorney and which lawyer to hire can not be under-emphasized. Both of these decisions are important.
So, when do you need an attorney and how do you hire a lawyer?
When do you need a lawyer?
If you have thought about needing an attorney to advise you, counsel with you or represent you, chances are you should probably speak with one. Typically, the need for a lawyer arises when you are facing some type of legal transaction, legal proceeding, you have been wronged or you need to understand your legal rights. In the event of an injury caused by another, the need usually arises soon after you realize that you have suffered some sort of damage. In a breach of contract case, it will be when you believe the contract is or is about to be broken; in a real estate matter, it may be when you decide you want to buy a property.
An automobile accident is an easy example. You are driving down the road, obeying the traffic laws and minding your own business, when suddenly someone crashes into you. You suffer a broken arm and a head injury. It seems from this example you have been wronged by someone and clearly you have suffered damages. This is the point you should contact an attorney to discuss your legal rights and whether you have a claim that can be pursued or is worthwhile pursuing.
Commercials run by organizations like “1-800-411-PAIN” suggest in their advertising that you may need to contact a lawyer while you are still at the scene of the accident; as if your primary concern should be making a claim for your injuries. When you are at the scene of the accident, your first concern should be for your safety and the safety of others. Your concern should be for injuries you may have suffered and for injuries others may have suffered. Your concern should be in cooperating with law enforcement personnel to make the scene as safe as possible and attend to your injuries. There will be a better time to think about whether you need a lawyer.
For more information about the primary things of importance at the scene of an accident, read our Vehicle Accident Checklist. In addition to automobile accidents, there are a number of other times when legal advice may be of benefit to you and we have more information on our main website about the various areas, including:
How do you select the best lawyer to hire?
Is the best attorney always the man or woman who graduated from Harvard? No. Much more goes into the evaluation of a lawyer’s education, background, training and experience than simply a single piece of information.
If you decide you need the help of a lawyer, make a careful and deliberate investigation of the lawyers you are considering and ask each attorney to provide you with whatever information you may feel is needed. The information that will be generally found useful includes:
- The Attorney’s curriculum vitae. A curriculum vitae, or a CV as it is regularly referred, is simply a lawyer’s resume. It should set forth their educational background, job positions, special honors and recognition, certifications and specialized education, and a number of other pieces of important information.
- Experience in the specific area. Ask the lawyer to provide you with information illustrating the lawyer’s experience in the specific subject matter.
- How much time does the lawyer work in the specific area of law in which you need assistance?
- If the case involves litigation, what is the attorney’s track history? How many cases has the lawyer tried that are similar to the matter you have? What were the outcomes in those cases?
- Is the lawyer Board Certified by the state bar in the area of practice?
- Ask if the attorney has ever been disciplined by the Bar Association.
- What staff does the attorney have? What are the staff qualifications?
- What are the fees and costs to be charged and how will they be paid?
Go on-line and carefully review the lawyer and law firm websites for the attorneys you are considering. Check for newspaper articles and television interviews. Does the law firm provide useful information on their website or is it basically just a sales pitch? Does the lawyer provide informative content such as videos that might provide you with insight about the attorney and their knowledge?
After you have all the information you want, sit down and carefully review the information. While you are reviewing it, write down specific questions you have about anything you deem important. After you have had time to give careful consideration, ask for specific and clear answers to all the outstanding questions you may have.
Do not allow anyone to rush you into a decision and do not be swayed by catchy, poorly informed slogans. A lawyer who advertises they will not charge you a fee “unless we win your case” is really not offering you anything special; they are simply working on a contingent fee basis – one most personal injury lawyers have been working under for decades.
Selecting a lawyer and a law firm is an important decision and it should be approached in that way. Ask the hard questions and insist on clear answers – do not accept slogans, incomplete answers or inadequate information.