Under what circumstances should I hire a lawyer?

If you are accused of committing a crime, charged with drunk driving (DUI), or party to a law suit, you definitely need a lawyer. You should contact a lawyer right away, especially if there are witnesses to interview and/or evidence to gather. A lawyer can also help you avoid legal problems, as well. For example, you can file for a divorce or file for bankruptcy by yourself, but a lawyer can help you avoid legal issues that may arise due to changes in laws or if any other legal complications arise. A lawyer’s advice can also be invaluable if you need to sign an employment or contractor agreement, or if you need to sign a contract or agreement to buy a house, a car or make any other major purchase. Legally binding contracts and agreements have a lot of jargon you may not understand. Hiring a lawyer to help you through these contracts could save you a lot of money and prevent legal complications that could arise later on.

Hiring a lawyer will prove to be a valuable investment if you plan on starting a business with a partner, forming a limited liability company (LLC), or forming a corporation. There are a lot of legal issues involved with starting a business, particularly when partners or stockholders are involved. Having a lawyer will save you a lot of time and legal hardships, not to mention the fact that the lawyer will be able to better determine what business formation is best suited to your needs. These are just a few examples of how lawyers can help you understand your rights and solve legal problems, many times before they become problems.

Which is the best lawyer for my legal situation?

Finding the best lawyer for your legal situation is similar to making any other major financial decision; you need to do some comparison shopping. Search for a Lead Counsel Certified lawyer on this site, ask friends for recommendations or otherwise find lawyers that specialize in the law area in which you need assistance (e.g., if you are charged with DUI find a lawyer that specializes in DUI defense). Make a list of several that appeal to you. Then, call each lawyer on your list and ask him or her questions to help you make a decision. Some lawyers may prefer to meet in person rather than discuss your situation over the phone. If this is the case, find out if there is a consultation fee. Many times, lawyers will not charge for the initial consultation (first meeting).

Some of the things you may want to ask the lawyer when you talk over the phone or meet include:

How much experience do you have with legal issues similar to mine?
How recently have you handled a case like mine?
How was it resolved? (Went to trial, settled out of court, etc.)
What was the result? (Did you win the case? Did you lose?)

If you end up meeting the lawyer in person for a consultation, you shouldn’t expect it to last any longer than 15 minutes to a half-hour. Write down all the information you get from each lawyer. Review your notes a couple of times, and take some time to think things over before making a decision. Then, make an appointment to discuss your situation further with the lawyer who seems best for you.

What other things should I consider before hiring the lawyer?
Among the things you should do is to ask the lawyer whether he/she will work on your case personally or have another member of the law firm handle all or part of it. If a second lawyer and/or other member of the firm are involved, you should talk with them, as well. Keep in mind that most legal cases are not “sure things.” Be wary of any lawyer who “guarantees” results. However, a lawyer will be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your case better than you can.

If you do not understand everything the lawyer tells you, ask for an explanation in simpler terms. Find out about how long the lawyer expects your case might take, what steps will be involved in preparing it and taking it to trial (if needed), what may expected from you in further preparing the case, and how you will be charged for the lawyer’s services.

What if there’s a problem with the bill or I can’t afford to pay?
If you think your lawyer’s bill contains an error or something you didn’t agree to, contact the lawyer immediately and try to resolve the discrepancy. But, if your lawyer’s bill is accurate, but you just cannot afford to pay it, contact your lawyer to see if you can make arrangements to pay over time or agree on some other accommodation (e.g., asking your lawyer to postpone work temporarily until you can get the bill lower). However, if you cannot reach an agreement about how to handle the problem, the lawyer may be entitled to stop working on your matter or withdraw as your lawyer.