Usually, you should hire an attorney when you become involved in a lawsuit. While you may do it yourself (e.g., acting pro se), hiring an attorney usually avoids costly mistakes. Initially, you have a decision to make, which is what type of attorney do you want? Do you want an attorney who does a little bit of everything, or one that specializes in lawsuits and trials? The type of attorney you hire may also be dictated by geographical concerns. If there is not a suitable attorney that you want to hire within your community, you may need to travel to find one.
You may be wondering where to look for an attorney. A good place to start is to ask people you know and trust if they have ever used an attorney in the past. Referrals are usually the best way to find an attorney. However, there are other methods. For example, social media is becoming more and more prominent: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all common places to find attorneys. Simply search the relevant hashtags you are looking for such as #attorney, #lawyer, etc., for your community. Other places to look are: Google (of course!) and Martindale Hubbell (it has a service that reviews and rates lawyers), www.martindale.com. Other third-party sites are available, such as www.superlawyers.com, www.avvo.com, www.linkedin.com, and so on.
Another good method to finding an attorney is to search for reviews online from former clients. This often can tell you how you can expect to be treated by the attorney you are considering hiring. Are the reviews favorable? Do they state that the attorney was attentive and responsive to the client’s needs? Was the outcome favorable? These are all things you should consider when deciding whether to hire a particular attorney.
Some people use the Yellow Pages, but I find it is less relevant as the rise of social media becomes more prominent. You may find that you cannot find a good lawyer in the Yellow Pages. Look for advertisements that promote a lawyer representing you in your area of dispute. Questions to ask an attorney before you hire them are: will the attorney collaborate with another attorney in his or her office? Will there be paralegal support, which may drive down the fees charged? Are there others in the firm who can fill in for the attorney when needed? All of these are additional considerations.
Another primary consideration in finding an attorney is determining (to the extent possible) what your fees will be or what they attorney will charge for the representation. For example, will the representation be hourly? Find out exactly what the hourly rate is for the attorney. Does the attorney bill to the nearest tenth of the hour, or does the attorney bill in “blocks” of time? Compare the attorney’s quoted rate to others you have checked. Find out if the attorney requires an advance (sometimes
known as a “retainer”). Is your bill to be paid in full each month? If not, will the attorney charge you interest? Is there a grace period of 30 days or so before you have to pay, or is payment due immediately upon receipt of the attorney’s bill? Can you pay with a credit or debit card? Can you pay on the attorney’s website?
Sometimes attorneys charge a flat fee. Is the attorney open to charging this? If so, what will it be? How is the attorney calculating the flat fee? Does it include a possible appeal? What is the scope of the representation?
You may also want to ask if there are alternative ways to pay that are acceptable under law. For example, can the fee be contingent on the outcome? This usually arises in the context of a personal injury case where an attorney will take a percentage of the recovery, if any. In certain circumstances, contingent fees are not allowed (such as in family law cases). Find out if there will be a separate agreement for the contingent fee. Make sure you read it completely and ask your attorney any questions about it.