Attorney selection is the most important strategic decision that you will make over the course of your courtroom experience. The attorney you select not only helps guide the entire procession of the lawsuit moving forward, but is also your point of contact for the judge, the other attorneys, and the parties that you are suing (or, if you are unlucky, who are suing you).
As a result, there is a lot riding on your decision. A good attorney can mean the difference between a major court verdict and a paltry settlement. Also, in the worst case scenario, you and your attorney may not see eye to eye on every issues. This article is designed to help guide you toward finding the right attorney to handle your case. The right attorney should likely be adaptable, likeable, good at communicating, legally knowledgeable, and experienced. Below are five tips that can help you determine winners from losers:
Find an Attorney Practicing in the Area of Law You Need
Many people think that most attorneys learned at least something about every area of the law in law school. This is very rarely the case. Twenty to thirty years ago, experienced general practitioners could handle many different types of cases, but today, most attorneys are specialists. It is rare that an attorney practicing sexual harrasment law will know enough about divorce law to competently litigate a contested divorce lawsuit. Attorneys’ websites are good indicators of their areas of expertise.
It is also important to keep in mind that not every problem requires an attorney to resolve. In some cases, you may not want to call a lawyer at all. First, you should not pursue legal matters simply for the principle of the matter. For example, two baseball game attendees sued each other over the rights to a Barry Bonds home run baseball they both claimed to have caught, but the legal fees far surpassed the cost of the ball itself. Second, you should avoid initiating employment lawsuits after a merely brief period of employment. It will often be easier to find another job than to conclude the lawsuit. Finally, in real estate law, boundary disputes are often a waste of time unless the encroachment is truly egregious, as an inch or so of encroachment will barely affect your home’s value.
That said, many lawyers are often happy to take your money even if you do not truly require their services. Simply consider the benefit you plan to receive against the costs of representation to know if you are getting a good deal. When you need a lawyer consider your needs and pick an attorney who specializes in resolving those types of issues. The narrower the attorney’s specialization, the better.
Research Your Attorney’s Credentials
An attorney’s credentials are more than the attorney’s law degree or where he or she attended law school. You should select an attorney because they get results. Most attorneys love to brag about themselves, and you can often find a list of their awards and publications on their websites. When meeting with an attorney about your case, you should ask him or her about wins and losses. Ask what type of big cases the law firm has won. Find out whether the attorney has real experience in court in front of judges and juries, or simply pushes paper. Fortunately, this information can normally also be found on a law firm’s website.
You should also research beyond what the attorney herself will tell you. Check the local bar association’s website to see if an attorney has been given a commendation or has been reprimanded instead. Also check out the attorneys’ qualifications and experience in the area of law that is most relevant to your legal claim. Finally, consider the reputation of the law firm as a whole. Are the firm’s attorneys’ generally respected and are their staff reviewed well?
Trust Friends/Family Recommendations and Customer Reviews
Generally, there is no reason to re-invent the wheel. If a friend of your has met a good attorney and had a good experience, you will also likely have a good experience. Keep in mind, however, that every case is different, and that you should still search for an attorney who can handle your case. If you do not know anyone who has worked with an attorney before, online reviews are also normally a good resource to screen out bad attorneys.
For example, many websites that specialize in legal matters such as Avvo will contain reviews for attorneys. Finally, it may also be worthwhile to search other more widespread Q&A forums such as Quora and Nolo for feedback about attorneys.
Make Sure the Price is Right
There are two types of legal fee arrangements: hourly rates and contingency. Hourly rates are the most common fee arrangements and can vary from inexpensive to in the thousands of dollars per hour. These rates often vary with an attorney’s practice area with anti-trust and commercial transactional attorneys charging the highest rates and family law and real estate attorneys charging the lowest average rates. An attorney’s hourly rates are generally calculated to the tenth of an hour so that clients are billed exactly. In addition to the lawyer’s time, the time spent by paralegals and assistants will also be billed hourly, but at far lower rates. If your case is taken on an hourly-rate basis, make sure the amount is comfortable with your budget.
Contingency fees are a type of fee arrangement where the attorney will take a percentage out of the final verdict. These types of fees are most common for victims of personal injury. The amount of the contingency percentage will vary based on the type of case, but typical contingency rates will range from 20%-35%. Because contingency fee arrangements are determined based on a percentage of the final verdict, if the attorney loses and there is no verdict, the attorney does not charge any fee at all. Additional information about attorney fee arrangements can be found here.
Listen to Your Gut Feeling
This comes down to two key factors: (1) do you like the attorney’s personality, and (2) do you think you can trust the attorney? If a voice in the back of your head tells you that something is just not right, it is normally correct. Listen to your instincts and make sure that you select an attorney that you think you can make a connection with. After all, you and your attorney will be working together to resolve your legal claim.
With this advice in mind, you should be able to select an experienced attorney to represent your case. If you require assistance in the areas of personal injury, real estate, foreclosures, or labor and employment law in either New York or New Jersey, you can contact our law firm, the Law Offices of Yuriy Moshes to work with our team on your claim. Our law firm has three offices, two in New York City (Brooklyn and Manhattan) and one in West Orange, New Jersey. We offer free consultations for all new clients.