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What questions should you ask a lawyer before hiring them?

Before hiring a lawyer, ask these question to determine if a lawyer has the right experience, how much it would take to resolve legal issue, and what the process of pursuing legal action is.

When searching for the right lawyer to hire, to help with your legal case, many consumers of legal services make the mistake of not asking a lawyer enough questions.

While trusting that a lawyer is an expert in their field is necessary to build a good working relationship with your attorney, there are several other considerations that should be accounted for, before hiring a lawyer. 

Does the lawyer have the right experience to handle your case?

The term “lawyer” refers to a professional who can understand and apply the law to help their clients. Yet lawyers specialize in different areas of the law. For example, some lawyers may have spent the last 10 year helping companies, while others specialize in family mediation and divorce.

Here are the questions you can ask, when interviewing a prospective lawyer, to determine they are a good fit professionally:

  1. Have you dealt with a similar case before?
  2. How much experience do you have in this area of the law?
  3. What was the outcome of your most recent case?

Usually, lawyers who don’t have the proper experience to help with your legal issue would be willing to refer you to their colleague who specializes in these kinds of cases. If a lawyer is not able to refer you to another lawyer internally, ask if he or she can recommend a lawyer from another organization that would be a better fit to handle your case. 

What would be the cost of hiring a lawyer?

When hiring a lawyer, one of the most important considerations is the fee that the lawyer would charge to help with your legal case. 

Lawyers employ a variety of fee structures, billing their clients hourly, negotiating a flat fee, and sometimes even making their fee contingent on the dollar amount won in the settlement (a contingency fee).

Every lawyer has their own fee structure. More experienced lawyers charge more to handle the case. It’s not uncommon for new lawyers to charge $250/hr, while a corporate lawyer in a large metropolitan area may charge north of $1000/hr. 

In order to have a good understanding of the cost of hiring a lawyer, every new client should ask the following questions:

  1. How much would it cost to hire a lawyer to help with my legal case?
  2. What would be the hourly rate of the lawyer working on my case?
  3. How does the lawyer justify such a high hourly rate?
  4. Can you provide me with a fixed-fee estimate, instead of billing me hourly?
  5. Are there any other alternative fee structures we may consider?
  6. How will my fee be calculated?
  7. Can this fee be reduced by having a paralegal or a law clerk working on some areas of my case?
  8. What are other non-lawyer fees I should be aware of when pursuing my legal case?

The answers to these questions would depend on the nature of your case. 

What would be the process of handling my case?

Apart from inquiring about the costs, and verifying the lawyer’s experience, clients should ask general questions regarding the process of resolving their legal issues.

Before hiring a lawyer, ensure that your case warrants the time and money spent on pursuing it. If it does, ask a lawyer you’re about to hire to outline the steps they would take to resolve your legal matter, and the timelines both of you can agree on.

Here are some questions that you should ask to get a better understanding of what it would take to resolve the legal issue at hand:

  1. Is it worth pursuing this legal case?
  2. What are the chances of winning this case?
  3. What would be the ideal outcome if I hired a lawyer to represent me?
  4. What are the risks of pursuing legal action? What’s the downside?
  5. How long will it take to resolve this legal matter?
  6. Can this be resolved without going to court?

At the end of the day, you want to be comfortable engaging a lawyer and pursuing legal action. Ask these questions, and listen to your gut, before committing.

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