Retaining an attorney to either defend your rights or prosecute your claims can be a very difficult experience. Most people will go their entire lives without needing an attorney except for purchasing or selling a home or writing a Will. However, in the event that you find yourself seeking legal counsel, here are some tips for ensuring that you are retaining the right lawyer for your personal situation.
Tell the Truth
The truth will eventually come out and it is better for your attorney to know the whole story from the beginning. Unless you are charged with a capital crime, you should always default to telling your attorney the truth. An experienced attorney should not give your version of applicable events a second thought until they begin their investigation of your story. Attorneys must ascertain the facts as best they can in order to provide the client with objective legal advice. It will be virtually impossible to receive good advice from a lawyer if your own lawyer does not know the true story.
Attorneys are Expensive
Virtually all legal work is billed hourly. Some matters can be handled on a contingent fee basis or a flat fee arrangement. Unless the matter you have is based upon negligence that caused an injury, there are few matters that are handled without pay-as-you-go fees. You should always ask the office you are contacting whether there are consultation fees, or if there is a possibility that you can have a contingent fee arrangement with the lawyer. The litigators at Sullivan Heiser & Sweeney determine on a case-by-case basis whether to charge consult fees or enter into contingent fee arrangements. All personal injury and workers’ compensation claims are handled on a contingent fee basis. Some criminal defense matters can be billed on a flat fee basis, while some employment cases are subject to either a contingent fee or hourly fee engagement.
Legal Advice is Not Fortune-Telling
The advice that your attorney provides to you is based upon that attorney’s analysis of your facts and circumstances as applied to the current law. There is no guarantee that a particular result will occur just because the same result occurred in the past. Many, many times a person’s “gut feeling” is not the likely legal outcome. Ensuring that your lawyer has all of the pertinent facts is vital to the receipt of excellent legal advice. Again, ensure that your attorney is aware of all of the facts of the matter.
Let Your Attorney Handle Your Case
Attorneys are professionals just like dentists, doctors, engineers, accountants, or teachers. There are, generally, dozens of clients like you being represented by the same attorney. Therefore, your matter will usually be handled in weeks and months unless a different expectation is established by you and your lawyer. Otherwise, let your lawyer do their job with minimal disturbance seeking updates or timelines for final results. Remember, your lawyer cannot tell the future any better than you can.
Respect Your Attorney’s Time
Be vigilant about the demands you make upon your lawyer. You should request an explanation of the status of your case if you do not understand the situation. However, understand that your attorney deals with these situations every day and has an understanding of how to handle matters. That is why you hired the lawyer in the first place. So, listen to your lawyer’s advice with that in mind.
Get It in Writing
All attorney-client relationships require a written fee agreement that sets forth the attorney’s billing structure and/or rates; the scope of representation that the lawyer is undertaking for the client; and whatever terms and provisions that will create a shared expectation between the attorney and client.
When retaining legal counsel, you should attempt to share all relevant facts with your lawyer. You should be prepared to pay legal fees and you should be amenable to the reality that just because you have an attorney, you are not guaranteed to reach whatever goals you and your lawyer have established in your fee agreement. However, retaining an attorney and having a thorough understanding of your relationship and goals will make reaching those goals more possible.
The attorneys at Sullivan Heiser & Sweeney can assist you in a wide variety of legal issues. Call our office to schedule an appointment.