Wednesday, March 14, 2012
0516-lawyers (Photo credit: Rae Z)
Before filing a suit, hiring a lawyer or taking some other kind of legal action, it is often a good idea to consult an attorney. A consultation is not hiring an attorney, and legal representation is not provided. It can help one interested in pursuing legal action determine the best way to proceed or the best way to defend against someone else’s actions.
A legal consultation is mostly about information. The potential client presents a situation and the facts to the lawyer who explains relevant law and the legal implications of the potential case. After the consultation, the potential client can either hire the lawyer or leave to pursue other options.
When planning a consultation, a potential client should prepare a list of questions to ask the attorney. Common questions asked in a consultation are:
• How much is your consultation fees? Since the consultation is often the first step in taking legal action, it makes sense for this to be the first question. While some attorneys offer their consultation for free, many do not. Determine how much the lawyer charges for a consultation, ideally before the actual consultation.
• What are your fees and how much will it cost? During the consultation, ask about how much it will cost to hire the attorney for the case. Does the attorney charge by the hour and, if so, how much? Some attorneys advertise that they “only get paid if you get paid,” so ask about outcome-related payment. There will likely be a charge regardless of outcome, so ask about payment plans or prorated fees.
• Do I have a case? A case should be pursued only if it is worth pursuing. Ask about the chances of winning or losing the case. Ask about how long the case may last. Also, ask about what happens if the case is lost.
• Background and expertise? If, for example, one needs a San Antonio personal injury attorney, determine if the attorney has expertise in this field and knowledge about the local law. If one needs a divorce attorney, pursue an attorney with expertise in family law.
There are naturally many more questions that can be asked in a consultation. In addition to specific inquiries about the potential case, questions about caseloads, experience and contact information are good too. Consulting a lawyer is important. Not only can it inform a potential client on the legal implications of their case, it can also help in the attorney selection process itself.