Top 5 Things to Know Before Hiring a Lawyer

What to consider when hiring an attorney…

Reputation – The reputation of your potential attorney should always be considered. Rely on the recommendations of your trusted friends, family and colleagues and pay attention to online reviews and testimonials. It’s important to have an attorney that you trust is looking out for your best interests and not just their bottom line.

Cost - Before you hire an attorney, you should consider the costs and make sure they are both worthwhile for your case and affordable to you. Different attorneys will have different rates which may or may not coincide with their experience so it’s not necessarily the case that the most expensive attorney is the best for you or a cheaper one must not be as good. You may be charged a flat rate, hourly, or on contingency. The attorney may or may not require a retainer that is paid up front. This will vary both by attorney and the type of case you have. There may be additional expenses such as filing fees, mailing, copying and travel. Be sure to ask your potential attorney approximately how much your case will cost and what additional expenses you can expect to be charged for.

Experience – Consider the experience of the attorney you are considering. If you’ve hired an attorney who only does estate planning to represent you in a divorce, they may be less efficient and may take longer on your case than an experienced divorce attorney would and may be less effective in getting a desirable settlement on your behalf. Perhaps you have a very simple case but simply don’t know how to get it done on your own. In this case, a newly hired associate with a substantially lower rate may end up costing you less than a partner with over a decade of experience.

Compatibility – It’s extremely important that you hire an attorney that you feel comfortable with and can speak easily and honestly with. Do they seem to understand what your issue is and what your desired outcome is? Are you on the same page with the strategy in which to get that done? If you disagree on the strategy, do you trust them enough to follow their lead? Follow your gut on this. When meeting with an attorney, you should be able to click with them right away. If you have any uncertainty or lack of confidence in them, meet with more attorney’s before you make a decision.

Expectations –Depending on your familiarity with the legal process as well as your personality, you will have different needs and expectations than other clients, and perhaps your potential attorney. Are you OK letting the attorney handle things and just contacting you when necessary, do you want daily updates or something in between? Do you expect detailed explanations of the process or would you rather stay hands off, so you don’t have to think about it? Can you expect most of your correspondence to be directly with the attorney or will most of your correspondence come from a paralegal or legal assistant? Is the same rate charged for paralegal time as attorney time? If you know that in order to feel comfortable, you are going to want frequent regular contact with your attorney, and they scoff at that idea or tell you that their schedule doesn’t allow for that and that most communication is delegated to office staff, they might not be the attorney for you. If it’s an attorney who is going to want to talk to you frequently (and charge you for it) and you’d rather keep the costs and your stress level down by having less direct communication, you’ll want to make sure you and your attorney have that understanding ahead of time. Having a clear understanding of the attorney’s expectations of you and making sure the attorney has a clear understanding of your expectations, will result in a much healthier work relationship.


Mary McMullen