When asked “Have I ever hired an attorney before?” my immediate reply was “of course!…?” as if to ask back “who hasn’t?” Anyways, I’ve used attorneys for various reasons and my husband and I have opted numerous times to represent ourselves as well, depending on the situation and case. In all my years I’ve worked directly or indirectly with dozens of attorneys, and hired half-dozen or more. If my job had an in-house law team or attorney, they were my close professional confidantes.
Top Ten Tips How to Choose an Attorney to Win Your Case
In no particular order,
- Conduct detailed research about your case’s topic and weigh your ability to win based on projected time AND money to be invested. Fully research the statue of limitation to file, the average amount of time to be assigned a judge, the opportunity to settling out of court versus having a hiring, and understand the costs associated and time involved with each step.
- Research attorneys based on their specialty and area of expertise. There’s a huge difference between filing a divorce, bankruptcy, medical malpractice, real estate, child and family issue, etc., so do not just assume any general attorney can do the best job for you. Experience within one (or a few) special cases means they are familiar with industry terminology, much more prepared with specific time designations, and even know judges or defense attorneys assigned to your particular case.
- Know your local, regional and state limitations. Every single state is different, but cities and counties may have their own rules and regulations as well.
- Research attorneys based on geography. For example there’s significant difference in rates of bankruptcy filings or divorce by state; so if you’re filing for a bankruptcy in California where they have one of the highest rates of bankruptcies; wouldn’t you want an experienced attorney? But, because of #3, having experienced area attorneys represent you offers many monetary benefits, specifically saving you time and money because they won’t be spending your money researching how to do your case, they will be billing significant hours to win your case.
- Ask for referrals from colleagues, friends and trusted confidantes. Notice, I didn’t say “family or loved ones”…well, unless you’re in my family. My hubby and I are asked all the time for our recommendations; and we noticed that a huge majority come from colleagues and friends, and their overwhelming reason is to “not to let our family know my business”. When family asked for help, we have *always* been prompted with pleas to “NOT let anyone else (in the family) know”.
- Always meet a possible attorney in person for free consultation with all your necessary paperwork. Do not rely on talking over the phone, filling out a questionnaire. Seeing their office is a big indicator of their ability to win your case. No, they don’t have to be rich, fancy, big-name, reputable firms to win your trust–a one-woman right out of law school, with a highly attentive, informative paralegal or assistant can be extremely successful. You never want to be an attorney’s case-number either. You want them to be personable and professionally-personal in how he/she handles your case.
- Know that the consultation is Your screening of them, not vice versa. You’re hiring them; so be the interviewer, Not the interviewee! Schedule a live consultation of your top chose of attorneys. Know you want them to work for your case, and not you being “grateful” that they are taking your case. Be confident, be prepared, be organized and ask questions based on your research. Show you are educated, aware, and confident how and why you want to proceed with your case, have your stats of the timeframe and chances of being successful. Sample questions (even though you should already know some of these answers, I watch how they answer, are they arrogant? rushed? annoyed? kind and open? willing and able to oblige?: How many cases did you win? Credentials? What happens when you’re sick, on vacation? Who handles my case? His/her credentials and ask to meet him/her. Their educated anticipation based on similar cases of it settling out of court or going to court?
- Get a second opinion. Now, you can conduct a second screening over the phone, and even get detailed answers from a willing secretary. At this phase, you should sound extremely well-educated in your case having met with your top choice, and ask all the same questions in a direct way.
- Have confidence knowing that not every case needs an attorney, and that based on your thorough research, you are capable of winning without one. Cases we’ve won without the assistance of an attorney were housing court, and small claims court. Also, in the state of Ohio in the early 2000s, the closing of a real estate sale is done by the title companies and in my dozens of foreclosure and short sales closings there was only 2 cases in which clients hired an attorney, unknowingly, to find that in both cases (1 was my client, the other was not) and I was better able to decipher the title papers and explain in to both parties each line item while the attorney could not. First, one was clearly not a real estate attorney, and both obviously never did foreclosure closings before.
- You may be able to hire an experienced expert attorney in your area per hour for his/her legal advice and counsel. It is always worth it, if available, at the beginning or at critical points of your case. Typically you’ll only get advice in the consultation phase, so after you conduct your second opinion, go to who you would hire if you can’t do it alone and pay for 1-2 hours to gain their professionally legal advise.
Bonus #11.If you hire one and it’s the end of settling a deal and your gut tells you something–listen to it and stay in charge. Again, you’re the boss who hired their services. For example, once I didn’t feel good about something (the last $ amount) and both the judge and my attorney was saying it was good, no that offer won’t last if I go home to think it over with hubby. I didn’t like the pressure and told them confidently that I wasn’t comfortable regardless of their “professional” advise and annoyance with me…as if I couldn’t do it without hubby (who couldn’t make it because of biz). I went home, discussed with hubby, waited to very last hour and the same offer was there! So, don’t be pressured to do anything–I remained steadfast in my belief and was rewarded handsomely.
Another case, hubby didn’t like what our attorney was doing (a substitute to our real attorney). During intros of defending attorney, she saw my name–we went to high school together, she chatted with hubby before proceedings; so when hubby wasn’t happy–he asked to talk to defending attorney (and her boss) without our counsel. (I couldn’t attend because last-minute babysitting wasn’t available).
Hubby we closed with nearly 5-times as much than our attorney predicted hours before when I told him I couldn’t attend and needed to send hubby alone! Due to hubby’s persistence, our attorney made more than doubled what we predicted was going to be the whole settlement. Needless to say, he didn’t bring up how disappointed he was with hubby for talking to the other side without him…although he was highly against it.
Bonus #12. Use Good attorneys over & over again and refer clients to them often.
Disclosure: This post is part of a series sponsored by Lincoln Law, California bankruptcy attorneys, and we received compensation to facilitate this post. We were not influenced in anyway to share only positive remarks. After all, lying is haram (prohibited). You’re welcome to read American Muslim Mom’s disclosure policy and contest disclosure.