Hiring a Lawyer: 4 Smart Starter Steps - Werner Law Firm
4 Smart Steps to Take Before Hiring a Lawyer | Werner Law Firm

4 Smart Steps to Take Before Hiring a Lawyer

Seeking legal counsel is usually the smart thing to do, but regardless of what kind of a situation you find yourself in, there are preparations to make before you elect to seek out a lawyer for your troubles. Knowing how and what to do before you meet up with your prospective legal professional can save you both a lot of time on the first meeting, while simultaneously improving both your chances and your understanding of the situation.

These are four smart steps anyone can take before finding themselves a lawyer to help on their issue. They can be completed in any order, as long as you feel confident in each of them before putting any words to paper, or pens to contracts.

Succinctly Explain Your Problem to Yourself

First things first, you will want to do the research to have a basic legal understanding of your own case. While it’s true that technically you could hire a lawyer, sit back and let them do everything, this is not going to be the cheapest or smartest way to handle your legal troubles, and will only open you up to further run-ins with the law in the future due to an incomplete understanding of it.

The challenge here is to be able to create a simple, concise and written explanation of your issue. Do the research you need to do to be able to give any lawyer a basic description of where you are legally and what kind of help you need from them.

While you may find yourself learning quite a lot in this step, tackling a legal matter alone is not recommended, especially if you have never seen someone go through all the motions up close and personal.

Hiring a lawyer is done not just out of a necessity for their knowledge in a given area of expertise, but also because lawyers have the experience and the connections needed to give you an edge. They can draw on years of casework to intuit and navigate your situation quickly and professionally, and they can pull in experts and contacts from different fields to help provide you with an advantage in court.

But it never hurts to have a proper understanding of your own case before going to a lawyer to ask for help. It will save you both time, and it can save you some money.

Understand How & Why Legal Fees Are Generated

It is important to understand where your money is being spent, and why you are paying what you are paying. Legal fees are not all that complicated – there are five simple types of fees to pay over the course of your relationship between you and your lawyer, and knowing how and why these fees are charged can help foster trust between you two, and it can give you a solid idea of how your lawyer treats clients.

First and foremost is the hourly rate. This is a number determined by the lawyer themselves based on what they feel their time is worth, and it is on you to determine whether you can handle that cost. These are also the most common type of fees

At the earliest consultation, be sure to ask your lawyer how long they expect to work for you in hours. Then, expect to leave quite a bit of breathing room on top of that number. An hourly rate is a quick, albeit not entirely accurate way to check for a lawyer’s overall experience – typically more experienced, in-demand lawyers can afford to charge higher fees.

Next is the retainer fee. Retainer fees are based on the hourly rate, and they are payments made to a special account to be deducted as certain services are completed. In the event that a service is not completed, the fee for that service can be refunded.

If a lawyer does not complete enough of their service to warrant taking the entirety of the retainer, they may only withdraw a certain amount, leaving the rest in the account for you to retrieve. A case usually involves multiple retainer fees, estimated by the lawyer based on how much work they think they will have to put into your case.

Another type of fee is the flat fee. A lawyer may elect to give you a flat fee if they know your case is going to take a specific amount of time, and will be over relatively quickly. Flat fees are typically reserved for cases with predictable outcomes and overall processes.

A contingent fee is a percentage of the final settlement given to the lawyer as payment for their services. There are cases wherein contingent fees are prohibited, and in the US, most jurisdictions prohibit contingent fees in criminal cases specifically, as well as certain types of family law.

Regardless of how you are billed for your lawyer’s services, be sure to understand what is and is not covered by the chosen payment plan, and have an overview of how much you are going to be paying once this is all over.

Research Where to Find Reputable Legal Guidance

This means not only doing your part to determine the right location from which to start looking, but it also means considering what it is you are looking for. Lawyers are best found locally, but depending on where you live, you may find that your options for legal counsel are immense. Start with a criteria for your ideal legal professional, including a maximum budget and the specific area of expertise in which you need help.

Most law firms specialize in a few different areas of the law, but sorting through them based on what you need should still help you narrow down your choices. There is also the small business dilemma to consider – smaller law firms will usually take your case at a lower cost and with a more hands-on approach, and you are more likely to see lawyers deal with your case rather than paralegals.

Larger firms will have a much bigger caseload, meaning your case may be mostly handled and filed through newer staff or paralegals. Be sure to ask how your case will be handled, so you know what you are paying for.

Familiarize Yourself With Key Legal Terms

While you are not expected to speak in legal jargon, having a basic overview of the common key terms in a legal battle can help save you time in a consultation, and in the case itself. Go over a glossary of legal terms and commit some of these to heart – you may already know what most of these terms mean, and it is most definitely not necessary for you to memorize all of them.

These simple steps will help prepare you, arming you with the knowledge you need to feel more confident in your choices, and feel much less lost in all the jargon.


Comment on "4 Smart Steps to Take Before Hiring a Lawyer"

  1. Ridley Fitzgerald

    It’s great to know how to find a lawyer. I like how you said that there are five different fees that need to be paid. I didn’t realize that there were that many. Getting a lawyer who will explain all of those would be awesome.

  2. Ellie Davis

    Thank you for suggesting we should understand how and why legal fees are generated before hiring a lawyer. Small companies seem like they could really benefit from lawyers. I would hope they would look into hiring the best in their area in case they ever needed one.

  3. Dino Violante

    I really liked it when you said that in order for the case to be successful what we need is to write to the lawyer and explain the case to them so that they will know how to defend us. If that is the case, then I will start writing the details about the car accident that I was involved in while I still remember the full details. After all, winning the case is important to me, and if this will guarantee it, I will make an effort. Thanks.

  4. Joy Butler

    I am so thankful for this brilliant tip in hiring a lawyer. What I really like the most is when you mentioned that it is important to understand where the money is being spent, and why you are paying what you are paying. That’s absolutely correct including the familiarization of the legal terms to which is I also agree!

  5. Dino Violante

    I really appreciate you sharing the idea of determining the kind of legal help that I need as well as my budget in order to find the best lawyer to work with. To be honest, I am sure that the person who needs a lawyer does not mind the expenses. Though I am concerned with the legal help that he needs. He mentioned something like a 337 mediation. I am not sure about what that is. I will look it up first, then I will start looking for a lawyer that can address it.

  6. Ken Hwan

    Thank you for your clear advice on the different types of fees that a lawyer may charge you, especially that a flat fee is usually reserved for cases with a very predictable outcome. I heard that some lawyers will give you a flat rate, opposed to a fluctuating one, and I always wondered how some law firms could still make a profit. It makes sense to me now that flat fees usually are for easier cases with a predictable outcome!

  7. Heidi Bookenstock

    My brother was injured on the job and is being refused worker’s compensation. He’s filing charges and will need a lawyer. I like the information and advice in this article, it’s important to understand all the different kinds of fees and if yours is a case where contingent fees are prohibited.

  8. Raymond Cooper

    I have a friend who is looking at hiring a lawyer to help him with a wrongful termination lawsuit. He hasn’t ever worked with a lawyer before, so I’m sure your tips will prove to be really useful. I’m sure if he took your advice to familiarize himself with legal terms, he’d feel a lot more confident in who he decide to hire to help him out.

  9. You’ve got great advice here for hiring a good lawyer. I like how you said that it’s smart to do enough research so that you understand your own problem. We’re looking to get help with our estate planning, so I should do some research myself.

  10. Thank you for pointing out that you should make sure and understand all of the fees when it comes to the lawyer you are hiring. My husband and I are needing to get a lawyer to help with an injury he recently got. I’ll have to look into finding the best lawyer in our area.

  11. Thank you for pointing out that it is important to understand legal fees. My husband and I are wanting to get a divorce and need to find the right lawyer. I’ll have to do some research and find the best family lawyer possible.

  12. Thank you for pointing out that you should make sure and ask the lawyer how long they are planning on spending on your case. My parents are wanting to get their estate plan done and need to find the right attorney to help them. I’ll have to do some research and find the best attorney in the area.

  13. Thank you for pointing out that you should make sure and have an understanding of your case. Having the right lawyer seems like it could make a huge difference in your case. Hopefully, anyone needing a lawyer looks into finding the best one in their area.

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