Do I Need an Attorney?
CHOOSING THE ATTORNEY WHO IS RIGHT FOR YOU
I. HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED AN ATTORNEY?
If you are wondering whether you need an attorney, the very best thing you can do is ask one. An initial consultation is usually for a small hourly rate or set fee. During that time, the attorney should tell you the appropriate law as it relates to your case and let you know whether hiring an attorney is recommended. It is not a good idea to rely on the internet, your best friend or a “how to” book. Everyone’s case is different, and a general statement of what might happen may not be the right information for you. If you believe your matter is one that could be handled without an attorney, ask . Often times people are so personally involved in their own case that they are not able to separate their feelings from their best interests. If you have a legal matter with an outcome that is important to you, your best action would be to hire an attorney.
The following are just some of the many reasons why you should hire an attorney:
- Representation by someone who understands the legal process
- Representation by someone who is experienced
- Representation by someone who has developed relationships with key individuals in the legal community
- Representation by someone who has your best legal interest in mind
- Representation by someone with the community resources needed to successfully resolve your case
II. CHOOSING THE ATTORNEY THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
Once you decide that you need an attorney, it is hard to know how to proceed. Not all attorneys are the same. When you are considering the right person to work for you:
1. ASK QUESTIONS:
- What type of law do you practice?
- About what percent of your practice is in this area?
- What are your charges? How do you charge?
- Is any or all of my initial payment non-refundable?
- Will I have to pay any more than that? When and why?
- How do I know what you will do?
- Do you have a written contract?
- Are there any “extras” I may be charged for?
- How will you handle my case?
- Will I be a part of the decision making? At what level?
- What can I expect in a time frame? (best / worst)
- Where did you go to law school?
- How long have you been an attorney?
2. FEEL COMFORTABLE: If you don’t like the attorney or feel comfortable with the attorney’s style or demeanor, pick another attorney. Your case is important; you must feel comfortable discussing the facts and plans with your attorney. If you do not like the way you are treated, the personality of the attorney, or the way your case will be run, go somewhere else. You will be doing yourself and the attorney a favor.
3. DISCUSS THE LAW: The law can be complex and difficult, but if you are hiring an attorney to represent you in a particular area of the law, that attorney should be able to talk easily and knowledgeably about the basics. Ask yourself:
- In general terms, does the attorney sound like (s)he knows this area of the law or is (s)he skirting around issues?
- Does the attorney answer your questions easily and directly?
- Can the attorney apply the general law to your specific case? (This will be somewhat general; a complete analysis takes time.)
- Were your questions answered? (Keep in mind the answer may be that more facts are needed or that there is no simple answer.)
4. SELECT, DON’T SETTLE: Just like all other people you hire to do work for you, you make the decision whom you hire. If you don’t feel the attorney you have seen is right for you, go somewhere else. Not every attorney is right for every person. NO ATTORNEY IS SO GOOD THAT YOU WILL LOSE IF (S)HE DOESN’T TAKE YOUR CASE.
5. TRUST YOURSELF: Often times the other side tries to sabotage your choice of attorney. Sometimes you will sabotage yourself. Here are some examples:
- The Opposing Party (OP) will tell you your attorney is no good or even that their attorney says your attorney is no good.
- OP will tell you your attorney just wants to run up your fees. (Sometimes recommending using only one attorney.)
- OP will tell you your attorney has done something of which you disapprove.
- Someone, somewhere, will tell you about someone they know who knows someone, whose cousin has a friend who has the same case as you and was told something completely different.
6. REMEMBER WHAT AN ATTORNEY IS NOT:
- An attorney is not a counselor.
- An attorney is not your best friend
- An attorney is not a magician — your problem did not spring up over night and cannot be solved over night.
- An attorney is not your personal slave; (s)he has other clients whose cases are also important. Except in an emergency, your case will be dealt with in its own time.
- An attorney is not free. You are billed for each call, each letter, each minute the attorney spends on your case. If you call often and for no particular reason, you’ll see it in your bill.
At Bender LeFante Law Offices, PC, we offer an initial consultation at a set fee. During this time we give you an overview of the law and a chance to evaluate your level of comfort and compatibility with our office and its legal philosophy. We are happy to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys. Email us using the contact form on this website or call us at (919) 870-9600. Out office hours are 8:30 to 5:00 Monday through Thursday, 8:30 to 12:30 on Friday.