Becker & Poliakoff

What Should You Ask Before Hiring A Lawyer?

What Should You Ask Before Hiring A Lawyer?

I strongly encourage people to call several lawyers before deciding on the lawyer they will hire.  Some questions to ask the prospective lawyer are:

1. How long has the lawyer been in practice and if the lawyer specializes in a particular area of law, how long has the lawyer been practicing in that area?

2. How will the lawyer structure the fee arrangement? Is a retainer required and if so, is the retainer used throughout the legal representation or applied at the conclusion of the representation? What is the lawyer’s hourly rate?  As to this last question, it is important to keep in mind that although a lawyer who has been practicing less time will generally charge a lower hourly rate, it may take the lawyer more time to complete the assignment due to less experience than a lawyer who has been practicing a longer time. Therefore, you must weigh the hourly rate in conjunction with the lawyer’s expected efficiency in the matter.

3. Based upon your initial description of the legal issue, what does the lawyer believe are the possible outcomes, what is the length of time anticipated for the lawyer to handle your legal issue and what other costs (aside from the lawyer’s fee) should you expect to incur? Be wary of any lawyer that guarantees a particular outcome for your issue, as there is no way a lawyer can guarantee a result. Also, if the prospective lawyers you speak to about your legal issue indicate you will require additional lawyers who specialize in other areas of laws to fully resolve your issue, consider hiring a large firm with lawyers that specialize in many different areas of law, as this will be more time and cost efficient than hiring lawyers in different law firms.

4.  How soon can the lawyer commence work on your legal issue? If the matter is time sensitive, you want to ensure the lawyer you hire has time to promptly commence work on the issue. If the matter is not time sensitive, you should still inform the lawyer when you would prefer to have initial work commence.

5.  Once you speak with the prospective lawyers, ask yourself what is your comfort level with the lawyer and does the lawyer’s personality match your personality. These are very important considerations, as everybody prefers to enjoy speaking with the lawyer they have retained and have open and clear communication with the lawyer. If there is a personality conflict, the lawyer / client relationship will be strained. You also want to ensure you have confidence in the lawyer and the lawyer listens and respects your input and your position.

6. Use the internet to find information concerning (i) the lawyer’s and the firm’s reputation; (ii) if the lawyer or firm are involved or discussed on social media websites, such as LinkedIn and Twitter; (iii) if the lawyer has published any books, written any articles or had any speaking engagements; (iv) is the lawyer or are other lawyers in the firm board certified, (v) the type of associations and organizations the lawyer and the firm are involved with.

You should also go to to view the lawyer’s information, as Martindale-Hubbell is the authoritative resource for information on the legal profession.