How to Pick a Good Lawyer

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The choice in whether to hire a lawyer and what to consider in hiring a lawyer can initially be narrowed to five tips that will help you spend your money wisely and make your life easier. The first step is to consider whether you need a lawyer, the second is what kind of lawyer, the third is how the lawyer will be paid, the fourth is making sure you get what you're paying for, and the fifth is to know where to go if you have a problem with your lawyer.

Determine whether you need a lawyer: Lawyers can make many transactions and events proceed more smoothly for individuals, but there are many situations that you will determine you don't need the services of a lawyer. People who make up their own wills are often perfectly satisfied with their creations without the use of a lawyer, individuals who go to traffic court are often satisfied with their own work, individuals who file their own separation agreements and handle their own divorces are often satisfied with acting as their own lawyers, and in Small Claims courts, it is rarely that individuals are represented by lawyers. However, there are times when having a lawyer is often the best road to take, even considering the cost of hiring a lawyer. Criminal cases often are occasions where hiring a lawyer is advisable because of what is at stake and because lawyers often know the personnel of the court, including the D.A.'s so that they can better negotiate your case than you can yourself. Complex trust creation for wealthier clients is also an occasion when the services of a lawyer are advisable. Divorce cases also often lend themselves to lawyer services.

Determine what kind of lawyer you require: There are many different kinds of lawyers who have specialties in one area or another or who are general practitioners who handle cases in a variety of areas. Usually, the first division between lawyers is those who practice in the civil end of the law, where a person seeks money results or enforcement of various agreements for performance of one kind or another, including divorce and those who practice criminal law ranging from drug charges to drunk driving, to embezzlement to certain traffic events. Individuals can find lawyers and law firms that specialize in any number of areas, but specializing is not always a specific training that a lawyer has received but rather reflects his practice experience. Luckily for consumers, lawyer advertisements often list the focus of a particular lawyer's field of expertise.

Determine how your lawyer will be paid: The right to counsel extends to criminal courts and upon showing of economic need, individuals can get court appointed lawyers. These lawyers, however, are not necessarily free. There is provision for some nominal feel in many courts if you lose your case. Of course, the fee is much less than it would be if you hire your own lawyer. Criminal lawyers often charge several thousand dollars for their retainer, the amount you pay to get them to represent you and then provide that if actual trial occurs the fee per diem is several hundred dollars on top of the initial fee. Similarly for civil cases, those where there is no risk of jail time, lawyers will have you sign a retainer that outlines that this lawyer represents you. Again, additional services, trial time or complications will cost you more. In cases of personal injury and in some cases regarding taxes and such, lawyers will be hired on a contingency basis, meaning they will not get paid unless you recover money and then they will get a percentage of your recovery. So, if you collect ten thousand dollars for an injury, the lawyer would probably get about three thousand four hundred dollars of your recovery.

The fourth tip in hiring a lawyer is making sure you get what you pay for. The first thing to make sure of is that the lawyer you are hiring is the one who will actually be representing you and not some associate or some other staff member. The second thing to be sure you remember is that your lawyer does certain things and doesn't do other things. For instance, your lawyer is not there to act as your psychologist and if you call with complaints about your mental state, anxiety or anything else, you will be surprised that your retainer is gobbled up by the money the lawyer charges for the time he spends on the phone with you. Ask your lawyer for updates on what he or she is doing on your case so that he isn't just sitting on it until it gets close to your calendar date and you can get a better idea of the effort he or she is putting into representing you.

You are not powerless if you have a bad lawyer: Individuals do not have to wait until after a disastrous verdict or award to complain and do something about a bad lawyer. If you're not happy, most lawyers will let you out of your retainer after keeping a certain amount for the work they've performed up until that time. If an individual has representation in a trial, application can be made to the judge for a new lawyer. In the event you want to complain about your lawyer after the fact, you can initiate a complaint against the lawyer's state's bar association.