Hiring a lawyer can be one of the most nerve-wracking things you’ll ever experience, especially if it’s for something you weren’t expecting. Ask these 5 questions before you hire a lawyer.
You may have a lot of questions, and that’s OK. (Skip generic, personal questions, like “where did you go to law school?”) Write them all down and take them with you for your first visit. You’ll want to find a lawyer who knows how to handle your particular case successfully, and interviewing them is a first step to easing your mind about your legal issue.
Many lawyers offer free consultations like we do. A lawyer will ask you about your case, but you should be asking your own questions, too. Here are five basic questions to ask a lawyer before you hire one.
1. What experience do you have in handling legal matters like mine? Is my case in the focus of your main practice area?
While general legal practitioners do still exist, finding a specialist who is an expert in your particular legal matter is a better idea. If you need a lawyer for a traffic violation, you wouldn’t want to find someone who is better skilled at divorce law. Consider it this way: would you go to your family doctor for brain surgery? Of course not—you’d want to find a skilled brain surgeon who knew exactly what he or she was doing. It’s the same as asking your favorite personal injury lawyer to handle a criminal case, especially if it’s one where you could face jail time.
2. How will you charge me for your services? This is a detailed question that you definitely need to ask. Don’t just ask, “how much is this going to cost me?” It’s not that simple.
Lawyers have different fee arrangements depending on the type of cases they handle. Personal injury and some other types of lawyers frequently use something called a “contingency fee” arrangement, where their fees are a percentage of any financial settlement you might receive (like one from a car accident.) But some charge either a flat fee or by the hour. You won’t know until you ask.
If your lawyer charges an hourly rate, you’ll also want to ask how often you’ll receive a bill, how they charge for parts of an hour, and if you’ll be charged for calling or emailing a paralegal or other member of their staff for updates about your case.
You should also ask if you’ll be charged a deposit for them to take your case.
3. Who will be my primary point of contact? Will you be handling my case, or will it be assigned to another lawyer or a paralegal?
This is important because you need to know who you’ll be talking to and who to ask for if you call. Paralegals and other support staff often take care of “back-office” work in law firms and handle phone calls so that the lawyer is freed up for court appearances and other legal tasks.
a. What’s the best way to communicate with you? Find out if they’d prefer calls, emails or even text messages for questions and short updates.
4. Do you have references?
Just like a job interview, references can be important. But because of privacy laws, a lawyer can’t just give you names and numbers of previous clients. He or she can, however, pass your contact information to a former client who may (or may not) contact you to discuss how their particular case was handled.
5. Do you have a written representation agreement that I can read before I sign?
Asking for this agreement will allow you to read carefully what happens when you hire this lawyer. You’ll know what to expect, and there shouldn’t be any “surprises.” If you do have any additional questions before you hire him or her, you should have an opportunity to ask them.
Additional questions are available at the North Carolina State Bar’s website. Don’t be embarrassed to ask—most lawyers welcome the opportunity to help, and will be happy to answer them for you.
Most of us don’t hire a lawyer very often, so we don’t know if we’re doing it right or not until we have a problem along the way. Asking questions and understanding the process of your particular legal matter is important to ensure that you’re working with your lawyer for a positive outcome.
We’re happy to answer all of your questions about your case, whether it’s a traffic violation or offenses, drug charges, financial crimes or one of our other case specialties. Call us today at 919-832-0307 for a free initial consultation.
Dewey P. Brinkley is a former assistant district attorney in Wake County and has successfully defended thousands of clients in the Raleigh/Wake County area. Mr. Brinkley will discuss your DWI case with you and design your defense so you are properly represented.