Most potential clients interview between three and five lawyers before choosing the right professional. While legal consultations are typically free, the time spent scheduling and attending these meetings can add up. How can you be sure you’re using your time wisely when you’re hiring an attorney?
The key to a successful consultation is knowing which legal questions to ask. Arriving at your meeting prepared can streamline the process and ensure you walk out the door with all the information you need to make an informed decision.
We’ve created this guide to help you learn what questions to ask a lawyer during your first legal consultation. Read on to create an effective interview plan.
- What Is Your Legal Specialty?
You don’t go to an ear, nose, and throat doctor when you have a stomachache. Likewise, when hiring a lawyer for an automotive case, you wouldn’t go to someone who typically handles divorce. If you need something specific, such as a spinal cord injury lawyer, you need to do your research.
While some attorneys are generalists who address a range of common legal issues, many have experience in one niche area. When you sit down with a prospective professional, ask about their specialty and evidence of success with cases like yours. This may be less important if you’re only looking for help with a will or uncontested divorce.
- Have You Represented Similar Cases?
The key to finding a great attorney is checking their track record. Be sure to ask them for specific examples of cases similar to yours, including their outcomes. You’ll feel more confident if you have evidence of positive results.
Furthermore, you want to ensure you’re the lawyer’s typical client. Some legal professionals primarily work with groups or organizations. They may have represented similar cases but rarely worked with individuals, which can make a difference in how they approach communication.
- What Is Your Experience Level?
While a strong track record is nice, experience is just as critical. An experienced lawyer will know how to navigate red tape. Furthermore, they’ll likely have the paperwork and procedures down to a science, which can help streamline the process and save you time, confusion, and aggravation.
- What Are Your Fees and Billing Structures?
If a lawyer is unwilling to discuss fees or billing structures during the consultation, you should consider it a major red flag. Fee transparency is critical to an open, honest legal relationship. During your interview, you should ask for a fee sheet that clearly states any prospective costs.
Lawyers commonly use a variety of billing structures. Many lawyers will ask for a retainer fee, covering any filing or court fees they may accrue. Often, these professionals will charge a standard hourly fee for their time and labor.
Other lawyers will present contingency fees. In other words, if they are successful in court, you will owe them a percentage of your funds. If they are unsuccessful, you will not be responsible for that money.
- Will I Be Working With Paralegals or Assistants?
Many legal offices employ paralegals and legal assistants to help with cases. While these individuals have education and experience, they don’t have the same qualifications as attorneys. Ask who will be working on your case, which can help determine if you’re paying a fair price for legal advice.
- How Will We Communicate?
Communication is vital to any professional relationship. It’s especially critical in sensitive legal cases in which the outcome can impact your life for years to come. You deserve to learn updates as they happen and receive that information clearly and efficiently.
You can ask how the lawyer intends to provide legal answers, as well as how often you can expect to hear from them. This will provide peace of mind and ensure you have the same expectations for the professional relationship.
- Do You Anticipate an Outcome to My Case?
Asking your potential attorney about their predictions regarding the outcome of your case is an excellent litmus test. How they answer will tell you a lot about their honesty and communication style. It can give you information about whether or not they are the most effective lawyer for your case.
Furthermore, most experienced attorneys can predict the probable outcome. They often know if a case is worth pursuing. You don’t want to work with a money-hungry professional who is only after an hourly fee despite low confidence in your case.
- How Long Will the Process Take?
When you’re paying by the hour, the length of the process matters. Also, drawing out an emotional case can tax your mind and body. Ask your lawyer to provide a realistic timeline for the entire process, especially if you must take time off work or arrange childcare.
- Can You Think of Any Alternatives to Court?
In many cases, such as child custody scenarios, individuals can pursue mediation rather than legal action. This is a less contentious way to handle sensitive, highly emotional legal situations. Always ask your prospective lawyer if mediation is a potential solution.
Ask the Right Legal Questions
While the answers to the above questions will help you make informed decisions, also pay attention to how they’re answered. Is your potential attorney honest, open, forthcoming, and transparent? When you address these legal questions, take good notes about your first impressions so you can compare your experiences when it’s time to make a decision.
Every choice becomes easier when you approach your decision with knowledge and confidence. The rest of the blog contains informative articles sonora tillman that can help you build a solid foundation. Check out our other posts to level up your decision-making skills.