What Questions Do I Ask When Choosing A Lawyer?

Once you have adequately determined the legal and ethical ratings of the lawyers you are considering it is important to schedule a face-to-face meeting with the lawyer to discuss issues relating to his practice and expertise. During that meeting you should ask the lawyer some or all of the following questions:

1. Will a partner or associate be assigned to the case?
Frequently, the lawyer you meet is not the lawyer who performs the majority of the work on the case. Clients do not appreciate being "switched" to an unfamiliar, less experienced lawyer whom they have not met.

2. What experience does the lawyer who will handle the case have with trials?
Many lawyers are great at "working up" the case, but try to avoid going to trial even when the other side is offering a very unreasonable or no settlement offer. Most lawyers who try a lot of cases handle the case from the beginning as if it would proceed to trial. If it settles, fine. If not, they are extremely prepared to try the case. A lawyer who handles the case as if it is going to settle either must accept a low settlement offer or try a bad case. In either event, the client loses.

3. Will I have input into the decision to try or settle the case?
Some lawyers seek little or no input from the client when the decision to settle or try the case is at hand. Make sure that the lawyer you choose allows such input and cannot settle your case without your express direction to do so.

4. What costs will be involved in handling my case?
Clients are never happy when the lawyer fails to explain from the beginning the costs which will be involved in the case. Almost all lawyers take a fee on the total amount recovered with the costs coming out of the client's portion.

If those costs are high, as in medical malpractice or other complex litigation, any recovery can be substantially reduced. Make sure your lawyer can provide a detailed accounting of the costs as the case progresses. If necessary you can ask to approve the major costs (anything over $10,000) before it is expended.

5. How can I track the progress of my case?
This is an important question. Most lawyers cannot talk directly to the client every time he calls (although the lawyer should try). If you lawyer is not available when you need an update, establish in the beginning a contact person whom you can call or write for a progress report. Or, set up a schedule at the beginning of the case (once a month is a good time) to talk to someone about the progress of the case and the plan for the future.

6. How is the value of my case determined?
It is important from the beginning for the client to understand how his lawyer evaluates cases to determine their worth. Most lawyers use a combination of experience and a review of other previously decided cases (precedent) in considering the potential value of the case. The chance of proving liability and the fault of the client or other parties is also a consideration.

7. What are my chances for success in this case?
It is important from the very beginning to understand what the realistic chances of success there is in your case. If the case is risky with a low probability of winning, this should be explained to you in the beginning to avoid any misunderstandings later on as the case progresses.