A lot of people have a lot of questions about lawyers and the law. That is why it is important to know what you are getting into when hiring a lawyer. Here is a look at some Frequently Asked Questions that can help.

Do I need a lawyer?

Do not wait until the insurance company denies your claim to seek legal counsel. If you have any reason to believe that your insurance claim is not being paid or that your rights have been violated, you should immediately contact legal counsel to protect and advise you. Like a doctor, a lawyer’s ability to help you is directly tied to how early they are involved. You would not wait to see a doctor until a health issue becomes life-threatening, and similarly, you should not wait until your claim is denied to seek counsel.

Why should I hire a lawyer?

Hiring a lawyer has several benefits. First, it will notify the insurance company that you mean business. Second, your attorney is the only person who can listen to your story – all of it – without the risk of being subpoenaed to testify against you.

Making a full and honest disclosure of the facts to your lawyer allows the lawyer to understand the precise risks you are facing and how to avoid them. Third, a lawyer will fully advise you of your rights and potentially protect you from the pitfalls that come with any legal claim.

A skilled attorney can help you manage adverse information without breaking the law and investigate your case to bring advantageous information to the insurance company’s attention. It is far better to present the insurance company with the full picture of your damages at the earliest time feasible, so you should not wait to call a lawyer.

How do I choose the right attorney?

The most important quality in a lawyer is good judgment. Judgment is a critical tool for evaluating risk, thinking strategically, and dispensing advice. There should be a sound reason behind every act the lawyer takes. Avoid attorneys who seem to act impulsively, promise you a specific outcome, or otherwise display poor judgment or unreliability. Ultimately, your lawyer will help you make some of the most difficult and important decisions in your life. Ensure you are confident that your lawyer will steer you in the right direction.

A lawyer’s most important skill is the ability to listen. Only by listening can lawyers learn their clients’ stories, uncover critical evidence, and effectively cross-examine a witness at trial. Your lawyer should be interested in your story – not just your money – and their advice should take into account both the facts and circumstances of your case and also the broader context of your life in which it unfolds. This is called “client-centered advocacy,” defending clients instead of just cases, and is a hallmark of an effective lawyer.

Beyond these two criteria, you should select a lawyer that you feel comfortable working with and who has substantial experience in your area of need. If you are facing a civil case or investigation, hire a lawyer who specializes in civil prosecution or defense, not a criminal attorney who takes a few civil cases. Federal and state civil cases and procedures are very different, so if you have a federal case make sure that the lawyer regularly practices in federal court.
You do not want a state-court lawyer using your case as a chance to “learn the ropes” in federal court! Your case is far too important.

How much will it cost to hire a lawyer?

Fees for civil cases vary widely depending on the client, lawyer, and case. We offer hourly fee arrangements that come with a small up front retainer. In special cases, we can offer flat fee arrangements that takes into account the time to be expended on the case file, the complexity of the issues, and the cost of taking the matter all the way to trial. Either way, fees generally range from a few thousand dollars to five-figure amounts if the case is particularly serious or complex and requires a great deal of work. Trials are also time consuming and may be complex, requiring additional staff and attention.

Do not simply hire the lawyer with the lowest price and assume that you are getting a good value. Lawyers, like doctors, are an unwise place to try to cut costs. That said, the most expensive lawyer is generally the one with the highest overhead costs, not the best trial skills. Try to find the right lawyer for your case and understand that the fee is an investment in you or your business’s future.

My lawyer is not doing a good job. What should I do?

First, have an honest conversation with your lawyer. Explain the problems you have with their work and give the lawyer a chance to explain their actions (or inaction). Your lawyer should have a clear and coherent strategy that they can share with you, and a good lawyer has an articulable reason for everything they do (or decide not to do).

If that does not resolve the issue – or if you cannot get the lawyer to speak with you – talk to another lawyer and explain your case and the problems you are having with your current lawyer. A good doctor always supports a patient’s decision to seek a second opinion (what’s the harm?), and a good lawyer should not be threatened by your decision to look for additional advice. The lawyer’s case file belongs to you, the client, and you can direct your lawyer to share its contents with another lawyer to review his or her work and help you determine if you should seek new counsel.

I have been served with a subpoena. What should I do?

Call a lawyer. A subpoena is a legal order compelling you to either testify or to produce documents and things (called a subpoena ‘duces tecum’). You should immediately assess with your counsel whether you need to respond to the subpoena, if so, the scope of any such response. An attorney can help you negotiate the scope, timing, and conditions of the subpoena. Do not try to face a subpoena alone.

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