If you are looking for an attorney, what should you look for (and what should you be wary of)?
This is actually a question that surprisingly many people who are looking for an attorney don’t ever ask themselves. But it is a question that may save you a lot of headache and possibly money down the road.
What should I be looking for?
- Do your research – Nowadays you can learn virtually all you need to know about an attorney or a law firm with a simple Google search. Review from current and past clients, legal fees, ability in the courtroom, awards and accolades can all be found online. Just the same, any suspensions the attorney might have had or currently has is available on the State Bar of Texas’ website.
- Schedule an in-office consult if possible – Would you trust a doctor that you had not met in person to perform surgery on you? I wouldn’t. It’s the same with attorneys. Your attorney will be an important part of your life for probably the next few months depending on your legal situation. It is important that you feel comfortable when you meet with your attorney. An attorney who really wants to forge a good working relationship with their client will go the extra-mile to make the client feel as comfortable as possible when they meet.
- Know how much you are paying up front – This one is probably the biggest question that people don’t ask and probably the biggest source of tension between clients and their attorney. Different attorneys have different ways of billing for legal service. For instance we sometimes bill a flat-fee based on the amount of hours our attorney feels the case will take. Other cases we bill on an hourly rate. The important thing for the client to know is that either way the attorney bills, know exactly what your flat-fee is or what your hourly legal fee will be. Clients also need to inquire about how attorneys bill for their paralegals, secretaries and other staff. These fees are usually different than the attorney’s fee.
- There should always be a contract – If you meet with an attorney who is handling something for you other than a traffic ticket and they don’t have you sign an agreement with them… run! Every attorney should have some kind of contract or agreement that outlines exactly the type of work to be done and how much the client will pay along with other miscellaneous provisions.
- Attorneys should maintain reasonable contact – Now this doesn’t mean that you should expect your attorney to call you every day. In fact, that’s a good way to interfere with an attorney’s work and add to your legal bill. Your attorney or their office, however, should maintain reasonable contact. A good tip is to email your attorney instead of calling. Most attorneys are just too busy to be on the phone all day. Sending an email will allow the attorney to respond to you after hours and even on weekends.
What are some red flags I should be looking for?
- If you meet with your attorney and they talk about the money first, run.
- If you meet with your attorney and they quote you a fee that sounds unreasonable, it probably is. Shop around, most of the time you can find a competent attorney that can fit your budget. Never forget that there are over 25,000 attorneys in D/FW alone!
- An attorney’s office should be organized. If the attorney’s office is in shambles, with papers here and there, run. If the attorney’s desk is covered in paperwork, just imagine how un-organized they will be in court.
- An attorney who is too experienced or very inexperienced. Now this will come down to your personal preference. Most attorneys are good honest people who are good at what they do. Most very experienced attorneys are really good at what they do and most inexperienced attorneys can usually figure things out when the time comes. The problem comes in when the over-experienced attorney charges 10 times more than another attorney simply based on their experience. Normally you can find an attorney who will do just as good of a job for you for a more reasonable price. With the inexperienced attorney, you may be hiring someone who doesn’t know how a particular court works or how a judge may rule. On the flip side, in-experienced attorneys will often work harder for their clients because they have more to prove. So, what should you do? Meet with at least 3 different attorneys and go with the one who is somewhere in the middle. A good attorney that has some experience in the field but won’t charge you an arm and a leg.
- Any attorney that GUARANTEES you an outcome is lying. The laws in Texas are difficult to comprehend and are ever-changing. Judges and juries are unpredictable. The one thing you must be aware of when choosing an attorney is that even the best attorneys lose cases. All that an attorney can do is guide the case based on their legal knowledge and give legal advice that will hopefully end in a positive outcome for their client. An attorney should be confident, but if they guarantee you a victory in court, run.
If you would like more information on how to hire an attorney or if you are ready to hire an attorney who will represent you honestly and professionally, call the Law Offices of Jayson Nag.