Hiring Someone To Represent You: Five Questions To Ask A Lawyer

Written by Christi Hayes and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Every lawyer must pass a bar examination and be screened before being allowed to practice law, but choosing the lawyer who is the best one to handle your particular legal matter can be a daunting task. Deciding which of the many lawyers admitted to practice in your state is the right one to represent you, may come down to the answers you receive to these five questions you should ask a lawyer before hiring him or her:

Question 1: How long has the person been practicing law?

Don't exclude an attorney from consideration simply because the person has not been practicing for very long. Ask a lawyer who is recently admitted to the bar to explain to you the experience the individual has had handling your type of legal matter. You might be surprised to learn that the attorney clerked for a judge and has considerable experience researching and writing opinions about the area of law in which you need representation.

Question 2: What certifications does the attorney have in particular legal areas?

Some states certify attorneys as specialists in particular areas of the law, including:

.   Family Law

.   Criminal Law

.   Elder Law

.   Civil Trial Advocacy

.   Estate Planning, Trusts and Estates

Ask a lawyer if he or she possesses a certification as a specialist in the particular legal area in which you need representation.

Question 3: Has the lawyer been rated by Martindale-Hubbell?

The Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings use responses from randomly chosen attorneys located in the general geographic vicinity as the attorney chosen to be rated. Ratings are based upon the following five criteria:

.   Legal knowledge

.   Judgment

.   Analytical ability

.   Communications

.   Legal experience

The sources of the ratings are not revealed to the attorney being evaluated to keep the results impartial. A high Peer Review Rating is a good indicator of how the lawyer is thought of within the local legal community.

Question 4: Does the attorney carry malpractice insurance?

It might come as a surprise to people that malpractice or, as it is also referred to, professional liability insurance is not carried by all attorneys. If the attorney you are considering hiring to represent you does not handle the matter correctly, you might be able to receive compensation from the malpractice policy.

Question 5: What will it cost you to have the attorney represent you?

Ask the lawyer how much it will cost to be represented in the particular legal matter and how payment is to be made. You do not want to be shocked by an unexpectedly large bill for services rendered at the conclusion of the case, so ask the lawyer the amount of the fees, the expenses for which you are responsible and how frequently you will be billed.

Regardless of the questions you ask a lawyer, you should take advantage of the opportunity to speak to current or former clients to find out about their experience with the attorney or with the law firm. Client referrals or recommendations coupled with information you get from the questions you ask the lawyer will help ensure that the person you select is the best one for the job.

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