Life is an unpredictable thing. No matter how well-laid your plans are or how quiet and well-behaved you have been, there will come at least one point when you need an attorney. Whether it be to collect rent from a deadbeat tenant on your property or filing for divorce, experts in the legal profession are an invaluable resource in society. But as someone who has never needed an attorney before, how do you actually go about hiring one?
Given that there are many kinds of law and even more specialties, it’s important to understand the nature of your particular situation before starting to look for an attorney to ask for help from. This serves as a short guide to hiring an attorney and what you can expect.
Do Your Homework
Given the number of legal professionals working in the United States today, it can be overwhelming to choose whom to hire. The best thing to do is to ask family or close friends if they’ve ever hired an attorney. The lawyer they chose might specialize in something different from what you need, but you still might be able to get a useful referral from someone you know and trust. If you can’t get one that way, you can always ask your local bar association for referrals instead.
Do some research on your potential candidates. What do they specialize in? How long have they been practicing? It can be a time-consuming task, but finding the best options for you is important. Don’t be afraid to speak with several attorneys to see which one you feel you can work with best. Your working relationship should be good since you will be working together closely for the duration of your case.
Run the Numbers
Always remember to discuss payment arrangements and rates with your attorney; every case and every firm charges a different rate for their services. Don’t be afraid to question both exorbitant rates and suspiciously low ones. Have your attorney explain why they’ve priced a particular service the way they have, and ask them to give you a quotation of what you can expect to pay if you hire them.
The amount and the way you’ll be paying also depend on the nature of the work you’re having done. If you’re trying to collect rent from stubborn payers, you’ll likely be paying for the cost of drafting and filing pleadings to be brought before small claims court. If you’re trying to leave the country and work abroad, then you’ll be paying for the specialized knowledge that an immigration attorney can bring to the table when it comes to how the country you’re headed to treats migrants.
Given the time-consuming and highly specialized nature of legal work, it can be helpful to set expectations with your attorney. Ask how long it will take to process a particular document. Ask for timelines for when you can expect to be billed for the filing of pleadings. Having a decent grasp of how long it will take to get things done will do wonders for your peace of mind because legal work takes a lot longer than most people expect it to.
The clearer your understanding of what exactly your attorney is doing for you, the better you’ll feel about the situation as a whole. After all, you’re hiring an attorney because you don’t have the specialized knowledge and expertise that they do. Therefore, if an attorney does their best to explain to you in layman’s terms what they’re doing on your behalf, you will feel better about the money you are spending on their services.
Be Honest and Diligent
Once you have engaged their services and begun to get the ball rolling, it’s important to be as honest and transparent with your attorney as possible. They are obligated by law to keep your secrets as part of your attorney-client privilege. You need to give them as much relevant information as possible so that they can write pleadings and affidavits that serve your purposes as effectively as possible.
Remember to always keep good records of what you have provided your attorney, what services they’ve rendered for you, and when. Keeping track of these things will help you anticipate when you will need to have money ready to pay for their services based on the timeline that they have initially laid out. This way, you can avoid being caught off guard when fees are due and have everything proceed as smoothly as possible.