Here are the three top tips you need to know when choosing a lawyer or law firm.
- Area of expertise
You should start by looking at the area of expertise. There are some lawyers practicing in only one area of law, while there are those who practice in different areas. Those who have specialized are the better option because they are up to date on applicable laws, relevant cases, and how judges respond to certain claims. It is a good idea to choose a lawyer who has specialized because you can expect better legal services and it also increases your chances of winning the case. If it’s a criminal case then choose one versed in such cases or if it’s an auto accident then choose a personal injury lawyer.
A good lawyer is one who is well-versed in their field and knows current laws and any upcoming changes. This can be through reading new decisions and discussions with other lawyers. Choosing such a lawyer is going to save you on costs because they already know the basics. Your file is also going to be settled more quickly and answer any questions you might have.
There are different factors that determine how a lawyer charges for their services. They differ from firm to firm. The type of case also determines the fees. The most common models include flat rate/block fee, hourly rate, and contingency.
- a) Hourly rate
Most lawyers are going to charge an hourly rate for their services. The rate varies from one lawyer to another. It is mainly based on the year of call (when a person became a lawyer). The longer they have been a lawyer, the higher their hourly rate. This is because people who have more experienced are believed to have more knowledge of the law and more experience in the field. Because of this, they can do the work faster compared to a junior lawyer. The time the lawyer spends on the file, like drafting documents, researching, email correspondence, and phone calls to both you and the opposing party counsel are all going to count towards the hourly rate. Law firms can choose the hourly rate for their lawyers, and this is why it can vary even if the lawyers have the same year of call. The rate can also vary within the same firm, depending on the area of expertise.
- b) Flat rate/block fee
There are times where you are charged a block fee or a flat rate for a given product. If this is the case, then no matter how long the work takes or who is doing it, you know how much you are going to pay for those services. Some specific situations where a block fee is common in real estate transactions and drawing a will.
- c) Contingency
A contingency file is where you are going to pay for disbursement that has been charged; this is the cost the firm has incurred on your behalf on things such as couriers, photocopies, court filing fees, etc. You are not charged for the time lawyers have spent on your case (they are still going to keep track of hours they have worked on the file).
The payment is going to depend on the outcome of the case, which is why it is known as contingency. If the case is not ruled in your favor, you are only going to be charged for the disbursement listed above. If you succeed with the case or settle out of court, you are going to pay the lawyer fees. You are also going to be charged a premium on the fees because they had accepted the risk of not getting paid anything. This type of model is most common in personal injury cases.
Before you choose or hire a lawyer or law firm, make sure you find out the model they use. Understand how they bill their clients so you can choose a law firm billing a way you feel comfortable with.
- The right fit
You should choose a lawyer who you like or respect at the very least because you will be working with them a lot. Just like any other relationship, you should think again if you don’t get a good feeling about them (if they seem angry with you, they don’t respond to you, they don’t listen to you, or ask something unethical). If you are in such a situation, the best course of action is to look for another lawyer you feel comfortable with. This is your choice to make.
You need to trust your gut when it comes to choosing a lawyer because you are going to spend a lot of time with them. There is no need to create more stress for yourself by working with a lawyer you are not comfortable with.