In choosing a lawyer, as in many other aspects of life, it’s all about balance. The lawyer you choose may be working closely with you for a long time on issues that affect your emotional and financial life.
You want a lawyer that has a good personality, and one that you enjoy working with or talking to, but one who can represent you aggressively when the situation calls for it. (You want “Nice” but not “Weak”.)
You want someone who is not afraid to stand up for you, and insist on your rights. But you don’t want someone that will argue just for the sake of argument, thereby increasing your legal fees. (“Strong”, not “Belligerent”.)
You want an attorney and staff who are open to your ideas, but able to stand up to you and give you an honest opinion and clear direction when you need or want it. (“Open minded”, not “Easily Bullied”.)
You want someone who will be responsive to you and will keep you up-to-date. But you don’t want someone who will put everything aside every time anyone wants to talk about anything. (“Responsive”, not “Easily Distracted”.)
And, while you want someone who you can afford, price should not be the only criteria. Look for a reasonable price that falls within the range of what is charged in your geographical area for your type of case, by attorneys with the particular level of experience. An attorney who refuses to cut the price or service when it will negatively affect your case is actually doing you a favor. Some cases may be “flat fee” cases and in some cases you should expect to pay a retainer up front which may or may not cover the entire fees in your case (depending on what happens which no one can predict). How this is determined will depend upon the type of case (family law, business, probate, etc.), the complexity of the case, and the time limits imposed by the case (is it urgent, an emergency?), amount of work required by the attorney (research required, novelty of the case).
This is why the initial consultation is so important. It allows the attorney and potential client to meet each other, exchange information, discuss the facts and options, and decide whether or not to proceed in working together.
When you have a consultation appointment, it is a good idea to organize your paperwork, thoughts, and questions in advance. This will help you make the most of your time with the lawyer.
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