Hiring an Experienced Attorney
Hiring an experienced attorney is the best way to protect your legal rights, financial interests and personal liberties. However, selecting a well-qualified lawyer will entail some research on your part. That is to say, you may need to talk to multiple attorneys before you find the one that is both properly qualified to handle your case and fits within your budget.
A good starting place to verify an attorney’s credentials and reputation is the state bar association. Each state has a bar association. Attorneys who practice law within a state are required to be active members of the state’s bar association. State bar associations ensure that attorneys maintain their qualifications by completing annual education requirements. An online search of the member directory of your state’s bar association will reveal whether a particular attorney is in good standing as well as expose any disciplinary proceedings against the attorney. You may also be able to conduct a search of attorneys in your area according to their practice areas.
After you have verified that an attorney is in good standing with the state bar association and has a clean record of professional conduct, you will need to inquire about the attorney’s practice areas. Attorneys typically specialize in certain areas of law. While some attorneys are general practitioners who handle a variety of cases, you should inquire about an attorney’s specific knowledge and experience as it pertains to your case. This is especially true if your case is complex or involves a specialized area of the law.
Before hiring an attorney, you will also need to discuss the attorney’s legal fee. There are various types of fee arrangements. Typically, attorneys will offer you an initial consultation at no charge to discuss your case as well as their fee arrangement. Most attorneys bill an hourly rate according to the amount of time they spend working on your case. Some attorneys charge a flat rate. Still other attorneys who work on personal injury cases charge a contingency fee equal to a percentage of the award recovered in the case.
Once you hire an attorney, you may be required to sign an engagement letter that details the fee arrangement and defines the attorney’s representation. Additionally, you may be required to pay a retainer fee, which is a sum of money paid in advance that will be applied to your legal fees.