4 Basic Facts About Working with a Lawyer
Ask yourself these 11 questions — and be able to answer them.
It is important to not only find a lawyer with the fairest price, but also find the one most qualified to handle your case. At LegalMatch, much of the legwork has already been provided for you.
Here are 11 important questions to ask before agreeing to hire any lawyer:
- Is the lawyer a generalist, or a specialist in one type of law?
- Has the lawyer handled cases like yours before?
- What different outcomes can the lawyer predict for your case?
- What alternatives to a lawsuit might be considered?
- Should mediation or arbitration be considered?
- How long should you expect to retain the lawyer’s services?
- How often will you be billed, and what’s the lawyer’s estimation for fees and services?
- How will the lawyer inform you of the case’s progress?
- What style can you expect from the lawyer: aggressive or open to settlement?
- Will others be assisting in the case?
- Is the lawyer covered by malpractice insurance?
The lawyer-client relationship is stronger when the lawyer and client understand each other. Let LegalMatch assist you in finding the lawyer who is the most qualified, affordable, and understanding of your needs.
Establish ground rules.
Legal matters can have a variety of outcomes. None are ever predictable. Once you’ve chosen a lawyer from LegalMatch, you need to communicate your expectations before you begin discussing strategies to win. Your lawyer needs to know what your “dream outcome” for the lawsuit is, and your lawyer needs to explain all other possible outcomes that could happen if you pursue the case in court. Even if your “dream outcome” seems ridiculous, your lawyer needs to be aware of it. After explaining your “dream outcome,” you need to list all other possible outcomes that you would accept in the order that you would accept them. This will give your lawyer something to shoot for as well as keeping him or her from settling for less than you expect.
Here are some things to bring up with your lawyer as you discuss the possible outcomes you’ll accept in your legal matters:
- What is the maximum amount in legal fees you want to pay?
- When is the latest/earliest you want the legal matter attended to?
- What is the minimum amount of settlement you will agree to?
- What i’s the worst way you think your case can end?
- How much are you willing to disrupt your life to pursue this matter legally?
By ranking acceptable outcomes with your lawyer, you avoid the possibility of your lawyer not obtaining the best possible outcome that you’ll accept. Be sure to give the lawyer a chance to voice an opinion about your ranked outcomes.
Develop a strategic plan.
After you and your LegalMatch lawyer understand your ground rules, it’s time to discuss the plan for winning your case. In most cases, the better plan with the better follow-through generally wins. Your lawyer needs to be able to explain how he or she plans to win the case, and after your initial meeting should be given the opportunity to draft a strategic plan. The strategic plan, for the most part, forces your lawyer to give immediate attention to your case, encouraging creative and proactive thinking. A strategic plan explains all of the following:
- What the plan is and what results it should probably produce
- Why it’s the best possible plan
- How long the plan will probably take, from beginning to end
- How much it will probably cost to implement the plan
- What special circumstances might require deviation from the plan
Your lawyer will charge you for the time it takes to draft a strategic plan. You might decide it’s an unnecessary cost, especially if you’re not expecting to need a lawyer’s services for long or you’re paying a lawyer with a flat fee agreement. Still, some legal matters take a longer amount of time than a client expects. Knowing this ahead of time is exactly why a strategic plan might be in your best interest. In the long run, you might be saving yourself a good deal of money. As for the cost of drafting the plan, you can instruct your lawyer up front to spend only a certain amount of money on drafting the plan.
Finally, don’t hesitate in modifying the plan that your lawyer comes up with, if necessary. The strategic plan, when agreed upon by lawyer and client, will keep your lawyer on the right path for the duration of your lawsuit.
Temper what you are getting vs. what it’s costing you on an ongoing basis.
If you’re not paying a flat fee to your lawyer, this information is for you. A lawyer’s services are rarely cheap. A client has the right to be in control, and to fully understand how his or her money is being spent. LegalMatch helps you find the right lawyer for the best price, but you still should monitor how your money is being spent. Do the following to minimize your costs:
- Right from the start, tell your lawyer all that you know. Remember, lawyers must maintain confidential relationships. Waiting until the last minute to communicate something with your lawyer wastes money.
- Brush up on matters related to your legal affairs. Ask good questions and establish intelligent communication. Keep copies of important documents in your own files.
- Be certain you’ve found the lawyer who’s right for you. Changing lawyers after the legal process has started can be very expensive.
- Understand the fee agreement you and your lawyer agree upon, and question unclear charges before you pay them. Insist your lawyer honors thrift if out-of-pocket expenses are part of the fee agreement.
- Ask if there’s anything you can do or gather to help the process. Be prepared and honor deadlines at all your meetings.
- Ask your lawyer about all alternatives to the dispute’s resolution.
The lawyer-client relationship is a two-way street, and these simple steps can help to insure your money is being spent in your best interest.