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Here are 13 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Legal Representation
1. What is the Law Firm’s Reputation?
2. Is it Wise to Hire a Relative for Legal Help?
3. Is Hiring Friends the Best Legal Move?
4. Does the Firm Have Adequate Experience?
5. Are Their Fees Affordable?
6. Do They Have Trial Experience, Settlement Experience, or Both?
7. How is Their Follow Through and Availability?
8. Can the Attorney Accommodate Complex Scheduling Needs?
9. Is the Initial Consultation Free?
10. How Does Their Tenure Look?
11. Is This Firm a Good Fit?
12. Do They Have a Good Winning Record?
13. Will They Give a Fee Agreement or Contract in Writing?
Doing Homework is Imperative to Hiring Legal Help
At some point, most people will need to hire an attorney. If you’re facing a legal issue in South Carolina, you need professional legal advice. Relatives and friends may offer their opinions, but it pays to get answers from a knowledgeable attorney. You need someone who is well versed in the subject matter.
Whether it’s a car accident or other misfortune, getting the right lawyer means everything. So, it pays to take time and find the best one.
The knowledge and reputation of a legal team makes or breaks the case. Hiring the right team takes some investigative work.
- What is the Law Firm’s Reputation?
Reputation is everything, these days. A person won’t need to look too long and hard to find out what other consumers are saying. Between the internet, word of mouth, and the state bar’s website, it’s easy to find reliable information about a firm.
The background of the firm and the attorneys that work there is fundamental to a case. Someone with clout in the community and with their previous clients speaks volumes.
You need to find out if they have a history of winning with auto accidents. Or, do customers seem to have more complaints than praises? Listen to the majority, as they will give the best impression about business conduct.
Of course, there will usually be one or two disgruntled people who want to have their say. Get a big picture understanding of comments. This will help give a clear picture of what to expect from a firm.
- Is it Wise to Hire a Relative for Legal Help?
Many families have a lawyer relative, especially if it’s a large family. While hiring an in-house representative may seem like a cheap solution, use caution.
Asking an inexperienced relative to handle a divorce or auto accident can mean trouble. They may take sides or not give as much attention to a relative’s case as they would a paying client.
In the end, hiring family may be a good option, but think long and hard before retaining relatives. A bankruptcy expert isn’t going to be much good when it comes to personal injury.
- Is Hiring Friends the Best Legal Move?
A friend that’s an attorney may be an excellent option. Still, it’s important to make sure that their track record helps and doesn’t hurt your case.
Like hiring family, consider whether your friend will put as much time and effort into your case? Will your relationship affect their sense of priority? Also, make sure they have the experience to handle your needs and represent your claim in court. They may not have any experience with your type of case.
- Does the Firm Have Adequate Experience?
Within the practice of law, there are several branches. Family lawyers can handle divorces and child custody agreements. They don’t do as well with bankruptcy or with an auto accident claim. It’s important to make sure a legal representative has the knowledge and training to handle your claim.
Researching previous clients can be helpful, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story. The State Bar of South Carolina can assist in giving more information about an attorney.
If all else fails, ask the firm about their representatives and their qualifications. Many have personal websites that document experience and previous work history. Social media can also be a reliable source of information.
- Are Their Fees Affordable?
Hiring a lawyer is expensive. The courts have filing fees, and there are all sorts of costs for the discovery process that end up in the bill. All firms have different hourly fees and payment structures. Some work on a contingency basis while others need a large retainer up front.
Find out how much a lawyer charges per hour and whether they bill for every text message and phone call. Many set a flat rate fee while others bill for every transaction.
Your budget should dictate everything. It’s always nice to have the best lawyer, but that skill and knowledge are going to come at a price. It doesn’t matter how great someone is if you can’t afford to pay them. Find out all the fee structures first.
- Do They Have Trial, Settlement Experience, or Both?
With a car accident claim or wrongful death case, trial and settlement experience are critical. Most cases of this nature settle out of court. A shrewd negotiation specialist is beneficial.
If the case isn’t settled, having someone with trial experience is valuable too. Know what kinds of cases and experience a legal representative has before you hire them.
Some legal representatives that work for a firm take different roles. For instance, one may do all the drafting of motions, while the other partner does all the courtroom work. Find out the structure of the firm and if there is ample experience to cover the case.
- How Is Their Follow Through and Availability?
Legal representatives are very busy. They rely on their support staff to help keep their clients informed. When conducting the internet search, look for complaints about slow response time?
Make sure to ask a lawyer about client updates and caseload before hiring them. An attorney that has 50 cases pending may not have the time to devote to another case as someone with only 10 cases.
Keep in mind, a representative is only as good as the staff behind them. A good paralegal, secretary, and other legal support staff are essential to make a firm run smooth. Some smaller firms may have one person trying to fill too many shoes. These smaller agencies are often the ones that have poor customer follow through.
- Can the Attorney Accommodate Complex Scheduling Needs?
A work week is 40 or more hours, for most people. Meeting with a legal team during business hours can be impossible for some.
Find a representative that can work around hectic schedules. Some firms offer evening and weekend hours, while others tend to stick to a strict 9 to 5 pm timetable. Find out in advance what they can accommodate so there aren’t problems meeting or communicating.
A good firm will give after hour numbers for emergencies. Some even give private cell phone numbers.
- Is the Initial Consultation Free?
If you have to pay a retainer up front, you want to try to get in with a lawyer that doesn’t charge for consultations. Attorneys should give an initial free session to see if they can even help in your matter.
Some representatives will charge $100 or more for your first meeting. Find out what payment they expect before collecting heading to the meeting. A firm that works on contingency usually doesn’t charge for their first consultation.
- How Does Their Tenure Look?
Those new to the legal field may have a great deal of enthusiasm for the case. But, it’s the well-seasoned legal representatives that can give great insight.
Once they’ve handled 100 cases, they know what to expect. They know what insurance companies do, what the judge will likely say, and they have rapport with the court. They know the judges and other legal representatives, and how to play the game.
Legal expertise doesn’t come easy, or cheap, but it’s worth every penny. So, find out how long a person has been practicing before hiring them to handle a case.
- Is This Firm a Good Fit?
The initial consultation is a way for the firm and client to look at the case and see if they can work together. Pay attention to the attitude of the legal representative. Do they seem eager to want to help, or are they grumpy and not giving much input?
Working together is what makes a case winnable. If the legal team and the client aren’t on the same page, it can be a nightmare unfolding.
Find someone that seems pleasant, yet they are sharp with the law and the legal process. Don’t always pick the most delightful person either. It pays to have a shrewd attorney in the courtroom.
- Do They Have A Winning Record?
Anyone can tell a client what they want to hear, but seeing the details of their success is another story. All clients have a right to ask about the success rate of the law firm.
Ask how many car accident victims have received large settlements and how many have walked away with nothing. It’s okay to get a bit nosy and ask questions pertinent to the case in question.
- Will They Give A Fee Agreement or Contract in Writing?
Any ethical firm gives a copy of a retainer agreement with expectations of each party. This states that they will represent the client to the best of their abilities. It should also list any potential charges.
A stipulation of the contract is that any party can leave the case by giving the other written notice.
Doing Homework Is Imperative To Hiring Legal Help
In the legal world, having the right lawyer means everything to a case. There are many South Carolina legal professionals competing for business. It may be hard to choose the one that can best represent the case and the client.
Many people get in a hurry and make mistakes that cause them to end up with the wrong representative. Once someone invests thousands of dollars, it’s hard to find a new attorney without paying even more. Even if someone wants to end the relationship, they often can’t due to the cost of hiring new counsel.
Whether a case is criminal, divorce, bankruptcy, or injury, having the best lawyer is crucial. The last thing anyone wants is to go to court unprepared for trial.
You have to educate yourself and know what you want in a legal representative. Then, you need to pick someone that will be on your side.
The goal is to win, and that is only done with competent representation. Having a winning team means everything in court.
Finally, don’t be afraid to turn down a firm because they don’t match the needs outlined above. Remember, personal injury cases can drag on for months or years, especially if the physical damages were severe in nature. Working with a representative for that long requires a good working relationship.
Find a South Carolina Attorney to Help You Win Your Case
Finding a lawyer in South Carolina starts with homework. Make sure that you go through every one of these questions as you do your research.
To use our car accident attorney search feature, simply fill out the “Talk to a Lawyer” form and click “submit.” Our database of South Carolina lawyers will provide you with a list of attorneys to choose from.
And remember, review these questions for each attorney and find the best attorney for your case.