Questions to Ask a Lawyer
What Questions should I ask my Lawyer?
You will probably have many questions for your attorney when you first meet with them. Your lawyer knows that you will have plenty of inquiries regarding your case and their own services. Asking your lawyer questions is absolutely encouraged- in fact, the questions you ask may provide your attorney with information that will be helpful to your case.
However, you don't want to involve your attorney with inquiries that are unrelated to your particular situation. Understand that both you and your lawyer may not have all the time in the world to go over every single question. It is much better for both you and your attorney to plan out your questions ahead of time before the interview.
You may wish to consider dividing your questions into two categories: information regarding the lawyer and information regarding your current legal case:
Information regarding your Lawyer:
- Background check –
- What school did you obtain your law degree from?
- Which jurisdictions are you licensed to practice in (this may be important if you're dealing with out-of-state matters)
- How long have you been practicing in this particular field of law?
- Do you have any areas of expertise or any special knowledge that might be useful for my claim?
- The Lawyer's role in their firm –
- Are you a partner, associate, or a founding member of the firm?
- Will you be working alone or with a partner? Will a team be working on my case?
- Will you be assigning any portions of the work to other firm members?
- Personal views and conflicts of interest –
- Do you hold any personal views or opinions that might prevent you from effectively representing me in court (for example, whether they have any personal, moral opinions about your legal claim, etc.)
- Have you worked on other similar cases involving matters that are substantially related to my claim?
- Have you worked for the opposite party in another legal case?
- Are you currently representing another party that might be opposed to my claim, such as an outside insurance company?
Information regarding your Current Legal Case:
- Past success in related cases –
- Have you ever handled a case like mine?
- What is the rate of success for clients in similar types of claims?
- How many cases have won and how many have settled with this type of matter?
- What is the projected amount of monetary damages that I will be entitled to receive?
- Fees and costs –
- Can you present me with a ballpark figure of how much the entire process will cost, including legal fees and court costs?
- Will you be working on a contingency fee basis or a flat hourly rate?
- Will you accept payments in increments?
- What forms of payment do you accept (i.e., check, credit card, etc.)
- Will you be sharing the fees with any other attorneys?
- Projected outcome of the case –
- Are you able to anticipate the various strengths and weaknesses of the opposing party's arguments?
- How long will the case take in order to resolve the dispute (this might also be related to the overall cost of the lawsuit)
- Are there any alternatives to litigation, such as mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR)? Will you be able to represent me in such alternatives?
The questions above are only general suggestions – be sure to include any inquiries or concerns that could be relevant to your legal claim. Again, be sure to ask the questions that are the most applicable to your case.
Are There any other Considerations to Think About?
You should be aware that conflicts of interest can present challenges for your legal claim. A judge can actually dismiss an attorney from working with a client if they have a conflict of interest which would impair their ability to represent you. The most common conflicts of interest are if the attorney is financially invested in your situation, or if they have previously worked for the opposing party.
Also, in very rare instances, sometimes an additional attorney may be needed. For example, some jurisdictions allow an attorney to negotiate a separate, unrelated business transaction with the client they are currently representing. In such instances, a different attorney might be needed to mediate the contract.
Finally, you should understand that due to time and financial restraints, it might not always be possible to constantly stay in communication with your attorney. You will likely check in with your attorney over the phone at designated times. You will probably only be meeting with them in person if important developments emerge. In between communications with your attorney, be sure to keep track of any additional questions that might come up as the case progresses.