Every day, thousands of Americans decide that they need to seek out legal assistance. They may need a slip and fall lawyer, for example, after suffering a serious accident while at a restaurant or shop. A different person may need to seek out a truck accident lawyer in the wake of a major crash. In any case, hiring a skilled attorney can be an important and daunting task all at once.
After all, chances are that you’ve never had to hire a lawyer before. As such, you may not know what to look for in a law firm that can meet your needs while still supporting you through the litigation process. In truth, the best method to find the right legal match for you is by “shopping around” to the various firms in your area.
While meeting in person or on the phone with these firms, you should be prepared to ask several key questions relating to their professional skills and experience. This guide will take you through a few example questions that will help you better understand a law firm’s capacity for legal support in short order. Using each firm’s responses to the following questions, you can confidently select a lawyer who can help you reach your post-litigation goals without delay.
A Note on Asking a Lawyer Questions Before Hiring Them
As you enter the initial consultation phase of hiring a lawyer, it is important for you to remember that a lawyer cannot answer all of your questions unless you hire them to represent you. This is a result of their professional standing that requires an attorney-client relationship before proceeding. With this in mind, you should reserve all situation specific questions until a later time.
None of the questions below are specifically tailored to any one legal field or specialty. As such, you should be able to utilize them, regardless of the situation that caused you to seek out legal counsel in the first place. Also, you may be able to find answers to some of these questions by checking out a local lawyer’s website before meeting them in person or on the phone.
Question #1 – How long have you practiced in this field?
When it comes to the legal profession, skill and experience are close together. In fact, there’s a reason why most lawyers start as junior partners in a firm before advancing or starting their own firm – they need that time to gain experience in the field. Because of this, it only makes sense that you ask your prospective lawyer about how long they’ve practiced law. In many ways, their response may reveal just how capable they are to serve your legal needs.
Of course, experience in practicing law alone often isn’t enough to certify an attorney’s skills. That’s because there are hundreds of specialized legal fields that a lawyer could practice in. You’ll want a lawyer who specializes in a field relevant to your case, so it’s important to follow up and ask how much of a prospective lawyer’s experience came in a relevant field. This kind of secondary question can weed out “generalists” who are often just seeking to profit by providing you with a one-size-fits-all legal strategy.
Question #2 – How many court trials have you served? How would you describe their results?
On the surface, this kind of question may feel like it is asking for further elaboration on a prospective lawyer’s experience in the field. But in truth, this question seeks to dig deeper into how often a particular lawyer has helped their client succeed in the court room. This comes in opposition to simply settling, which some lawyers push for more often than necessary. While your prospective lawyer need not give a precise numeric answer here, they should be able to come up with a reasonable estimate that is commensurate with their years of experience.
Don’t stop at simply asking for a numeric estimation of a lawyer’s case volume, though. Be sure to follow up and ask about the results from some of those cases. Any lawyer worth their salt should be able to name off a few noteworthy successes – perhaps even a couple successes in cases similar to your own. If your prospective lawyer admits that they haven’t always been successful, that’s okay. That kind of honesty can better establish your expectations for their interactions down the line.
Question #3 – Who will I be interacting with if I choose your firm?
This might seem like an odd question at first. After all, you’d expect to be interacting with the very same lawyer to whom you are asking your questions. But it is not uncommon in a law firm for certain team members to handle certain types of cases. As such, your case could be passed on to someone you have not yet met after the initial consultation. As a result, this question can be crucial to setting expectations for future legal services provided by the firm in question.
If a prospective lawyer doesn’t answer this question directly, be sure to follow up and ask about what role senior law partners in the firm play in regular legal services. You may discover that, rather than the most experienced members of the firm performing this work, paralegals and junior partners do the heavy lifting instead. While not assured, this kind of arrangement can impact the quality of service you receive in the long run.
Question #4 – Can you provide me with testimonials from your previous clients?
Even the best, most trustworthy lawyers may exaggerate their results from time to time. That’s okay, so long as that lawyer can back up their claims with evidence. In this case, that should come in the form of full testimonials from former clients. While a client satisfaction rating is alright, it is far better to get a feeling for a lawyer’s capabilities from other clients who have been in your shoes.
If a lawyer is unwilling to provide you with testimonials, that may be a red flag. Naturally, a prospective lawyer won’t be able to give you details about a specific case or client due to confidentiality rules. But all the same, your prospective lawyer should be able to provide you with at least a handful of testimonies vouching for their own performance. Otherwise, they may not have as good of a track record as they claim.
Question #5 – What is your firm’s approach or philosophy?
This is among the most open-ended questions you can ask a prospective lawyer. However, it can also be among the most revealing. In answering this question, your prospective legal representative has an opportunity to explain how their firm’s methodology sets them apart from other local firms. More importantly, this presents that lawyers with an opportunity to explain why their approach or philosophy sets them uniquely up for success in court.
This question can be especially important if you’ve had negative experiences with a lawyer in the past. Indeed, many lawyers today use the same approach for all of their cases or simply live by an “by any means necessary” legal philosophy. Those can both set you on a rocky course in court. Instead, be on the lookout for an approach or philosophy that is particularly supportive or focused on individual goal-based results.
Question #6 – What are your average court costs? Do you have alternative billing options?
When it comes to seeking legal services, don’t be afraid to ask about the cost. After all, many people choose to forgo legal assistance because they believe that they cannot afford it. While court costs can add up if your case takes time to resolve, your prospective lawyer should be up front about this fact up front. Even without an estimated total dollar amount, this question gives your prospective lawyer an opportunity to explain their hourly rate.
At the same time, you should follow up any questions about pricing with questions about alternative billing options. In an effort to make legal services more accessible, more lawyers are offering options where billing doesn’t commence until a case closes. Alternatively, they may give you an opportunity to subtract their pay from your final financial settlement. Either way, your prospective lawyer should allow you to pay in a manner that fits your budget.
Taking the Next Step
These are just a few questions you must ask any prospective attorney before you decide to pay for their services. You should also feel free to ask any questions that come to mind while meeting with a prospective legal assistant. Those questions can help reveal which of your several local options will best meet your legal needs and your personal budget.
Speaking of local options, individuals living in the Philadelphia, PA, area have one of the best local options when it comes to personal injury lawyers – the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky. Whether you need a car accident lawyer or a limited tort attorney, the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky can provide you with a litigator who can answer all of your questions and set you up for success in court.