Selecting an attorney to handle a case for you is a major decision that merits thoughtful consideration.
Some people have attorneys with whom they have long-established relation- ships, while others seek out a lawyer only when the need for legal services arises. Often, the need for a lawyer’s services comes suddenly, putting pressure on you to make a quick decision.
Understanding your particular legal situation and knowing something about the types of lawyers who might be best prepared to handle your case can help you choose the right attorney.
Most attorneys study at least seven years to earn undergraduate and law degrees. Law schools prepare attorneys to handle most types of legal cases, but some graduates continue their studies and earn additional degrees, often in more technical fields.
Some attorneys concentrate their legal practices in certain areas such as criminal law, corporate law, family law, international extradition law and personal injury cases. Even though these lawyers may focus on a particular field, they often handle other types of cases. For example, a lawyer who devotes most of his time to representing injured persons might also represent a client in a divorce or a criminal matter .
A “trial lawyer” or “plaintiffs attorney” is one who devotes a significant portion of his or her practice to representing persons who have been injured or suffered a financial loss caused by another person or company. However, many trial lawyers also assist clients with other types of legal situations, such as divorces, wills, contracts and criminal matters.
It’s important to find an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and who shows an interest in you and your case. The attorney you hire should be knowledgeable about the area of law in which your case falls and you should feel that he or she understands your particular situation.
Plaintiffs attorneys – or trial lawyers – usually charge a percentage of the judgment or settlement awarded. That percentage varies, but is usually at least one-third of the award or settlement, plus expenses. If there is no judgment or settlement in your favor, then the plaintiff’s attorney receives no compensation. He or she absorbs the loss in such a case.
These fees are generally referred to as “contingency fees” because the attorney’s payment depends on the outcome of the case.
For other types of work, lawyers usually charge a flat or hourly fee. In such cases, you and your attorney agree upon a fee. Make sure that you fully understand the fee structure and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
You also should feel free to question the attorney you are asking to handle your case about how much experience he or she has had with similar cases. If your case involves a personal injury or significant loss of money or income due to someone’s negligence, it is likely that it will take months or even years to resolve. This means your relationship with your attorney will likely involve more than a meeting or two.
Attorneys take very seriously their duty to represent their clients to the best of their ability. And, most clients are satisfied with how their lawyers handle their cases. However, taking time to carefully choose an attorney increases the chances that you will be satisfied with the work and that your case will be resolved in your favor.