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Hiring a Lawyer – Keys to Look For.

Are you presently needing to hire a lawyer for a criminal or civil case?  For most, hiring a lawyer is a one-time event in their lives, and many people want help in making their selection.  Here is brief comment on what you should consider before hiring a lawyer.

The Lawyer’s Role.

Your lawyer is your sole legal advocate. He or she should fight on your behalf, be highly ethical and efficient, and utilize cost-effective means.  Your lawyer should readily communicate with you about your case, and be able and willing to give you his or her thoughts on what the issues in your case are and the strategy that can be taken in representing you. Attorneys are “counselors,” whose role is to not only provide you legal advice, but they should also inspire some sense of emotional security and comfort for you as well.

Be Comfortable With Your Lawyer.

Lawyers are people too. Many different people with many different personalities choose to become lawyers, and you should feel completely comfortable in your lawyer’s presence when you first meet with them.  When interviewing a lawyer, take note of their professional demeanor and personality. Sometimes lawyers are aggressive and highly confident.  Other lawyers may be stately and diplomatic.  Some of these traits may or may not be right for you or right for your particular legal case. Getting along well with your counselor in the law is essential. A comfortable and open attorney-client relationship allows you to share relevant information to your case openly, honestly, and completely.

See a Clear Fee Structure.

Another very important key to look for when hiring your lawyer is a clear and appropriate fee structure.  For one, you’ll want to make sure that the price of the attorney is worth the case.  Smaller disputes generally don’t warrant hiring the most expensive counsel. In addition, you should ask your attorney if they bill by the hour, like in family law cases, or if a flat fee arrangement is an option, which is typical in criminal defense cases. While some attorneys might advertise a low flat fee, you’ll also want to inquire as to any additional fees. The advertised price might not include court filing fees, or even the cost of printing documents for your case. You also want to see if any payment arrangements can be made.

Look Into the Lawyer’s Record.

Even before going to meet with a prospective lawyer, you can readily and easily research their record and reputation on the Internet. Websites like the Avvo Legal Directory and Yelp Business offer free reviews and unsolicited ratings. These sites can be great places to start to get to know your lawyer’s performance in past cases. Many law firms also have social media sites such as Facebook, Goggle+, and Twitter which sometimes allow you to see what the lawyer has been doing recently in the local courts.  You should also check with your state’s bar association website to see if any complaints, misconduct charges have been filed against the lawyer.  And finally when meeting with the lawyer initially, you can also ask the attorney about his or her experience.  Ask them whether this is their first time handling you kind of legal matter. For smaller matters, that might be acceptable and could even save you money. For larger disputes, you might consider a more seasoned (and likely more expensive) attorney.

The Initial Consultation.

Some lawyers offer a case evaluation and an in-person office visit where you can meet the lawyer and his or her staff. Typically in a criminal case, the evaluation and initial client consultation are free, and some criminal lawyers may also offer to represent you at you first appearance in court or at a criminal arraignment for free. However in a civil law or a family law case, it is typically the case that the lawyer may ask for a fee to conduct the evaluation and initial office meeting. The initial consultation is the prospective lawyer’s opportunity to demonstrate to you why you should hire them to handle you case. You may be presented with some initial ideas on how the lawyer would represent you as well as given some thoughts on how your case could end up if you went with the lawyer.  The initial consultation is also frequently when a lawyer will inform you of his or her fee. You do not have to hire the lawyer at the initial consultation unless you want to.

Get it In Writing.

When hiring a lawyer, be sure that you sign a fee agreement.  In the State of Washington, written fee agreements in criminal cases are not required, but you certainly should request one if none is being offered by the lawyer.  In civil cases where there is an hourly fee or contingency fee (i.e. where the lawyer receives payment from any funds recovered through a lawsuit or settlement of a claim), there must be a clear and concise fee agreement. There is no regulation of fees by the bar association in this state except that any legal fee must be fair, reasonable, and appropriate under the circumstances. A fee agreement is a legally enforceable contract between the lawyer and the client, so you should read it over carefully and be sure to get a copy of whatever you sign.

Moving Forward.

Once you make your decision on hiring a lawyer, become clear on how he or she will be in contact with you and what milestones may lay ahead in your case. In criminal cases, there frequently are short-notice court hearings which come up fast, and your new lawyer must be ready for them. There is also followup that usually needs to happen like reviewing police reports, or they may be filing deadlines to keep in mind, such as the statute of limitations in a civil torts case.  Some lawyers rely strictly on written letters or phone calls to keep in contact with their lawyers. Others use e-mail and some are even comfortable using Skype video messaging.  Tell your lawyer how you prefer to be reached so that no delays or difficulties in future communications will occur.

Conclusion About Hiring a Lawyer.

Have no fear when hiring a lawyer. Lawyers are here to help you get through what can for some, be their most difficult times in their lives. Finding the right lawyer for you can be a tremendous thing and provide you many levels of comfort and security as your legal issue gets resolved.

Contact Us.

The law firm of Lustick, Kaiman & Madrone handles cases in DUI, felony and misdemeanor defense, and also in family law and divorce.  If you would like to meet with us to discuss your case, please feel free to contact our support team staff at (360) 685-4221 or you can access our free case evaluation form here.

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