Are you going through a divorce or launching a new business? Were you injured in a car accident? Are you about to make your will or face a lawsuit? In any of these situations, you may consider hiring the services of a lawyer to advise you or to represent your interests. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers the following recommendations to help you make an intelligent decision when you choose – and use – a legal representation.
Know who you are dealing with
Many attorneys specialize in a particular area of law. Make sure your lawyer has the corresponding experience. A lawyer who usually draws up wills may not be the best option to represent you before the court in a car accident case. In the event that your family, friends or colleagues have hired the services of a lawyer on a similar topic, ask them for recommendations. If no one can recommend a lawyer, check with the local or state bar association or association (Bar Association). Some groups offer reference or referral services to their members.
Find out and investigate
Try talking to more than one lawyer before selecting the one who will be your representative. But find out earlier if you will be charged fees for an initial meeting or consultation. Be prepared to describe your problem briefly, clearly and summarily. Consult and ask the lawyers about their legal experience, their fees, and the possible options, the probabilities of winning the case, who will do the work and when the problem can be solved.
Know the details of the deal
Once you decide to hire a lawyer, make sure you understand the terms agreed upon between the two. How often will the lawyer give you updated reports about the case? What information will you be required to provide? Do you understand all your options? What will be the total cost? If you are not clear on exactly what the lawyer is doing, ask them to explain it clearly. Although the probability of success in your case can not be guaranteed, discuss with the lawyer the approach or approach of your case. You should be comfortable with the approach taken by your lawyer. Be frank with your lawyer about all the facts and circumstances surrounding your situation. You may want to get a written agreement with your lawyer.
Fees and costs
Before you begin any work on your subject, ask what the cost of the lawyer’s services will be, and if you will be responsible for paying other charges and expenses. There are state professional ethics rules that require attorneys to charge reasonable fees. The American Bar Association recommends that lawyers detail their fees, preferably in writing, within a reasonable period of time after the start of their representation. Also, some state bar associations require attorneys to submit their fees in writing before beginning to act on the case. Your lawyer may charge you extra for copying documents, courier services, court filing fees, or investigative services. Make sure you understand what charges will be made and for what amount or amount.
Remember that the most expensive lawyer is not necessarily the best lawyer for you and your case. Nor a fee that seems to be a bargain is always the best deal. Search for the best balance between experience and the cost of fees. You may want to consult your lawyer if a lawyer from your same office with less experience or a legal assistant can perform some of the tasks in order to reduce your costs. You may also want to ask about the tasks you could do and thus save time and money. For example, you can copy, withdraw or deliver certain documents. A lawyer may charge you a fixed fee for a particular service or offer alternative methods of payment. Each method has benefits and risks.
Conditional Fees. A conditional fee agreement – also called contingencies – means that your attorney gets a percentage of the amount, whatever it is, that you receive as a result of the resolution of your case. If you do not receive any monetary compensation, your lawyer does not charge any fees. However, you may owe charges for court charges, copying documents and hiring expert or expert witnesses. If you have little money to pay hourly fees, it may be appropriate to negotiate contingent fees with your lawyer. But before agreeing a conditional fee with your lawyer, consider that:
The amount of a conditional or contingent fee, usually a percentage of the money you receive as a result of the resolution of your case, is always negotiable. Sometimes, you can negotiate a downward adjustment fee (for example, 30 percent of the total recovery amount for favorable resolution of your case up to $ 10,000, 20 percent for recoveries of up to $ 50,000, etc.). Remember that no particular percentage is established on the money charged by consumers that constitutes a “standard” or “official” fee.
The amount of the conditional fee should reflect the amount of work that will be required of the attorney. Some cases are simple, others may be original or uncertain. You may want to ask if your case is likely to be solved quickly and if government agencies will gather a significant amount of evidence. A fee agreement can sometimes be negotiated with a lower percentage for a quick agreement and a higher percentage if the case goes to trial. Make sure you understand exactly what is covered in your agreement. It is possible that your State has rules regarding the maximums applicable for conditional fees, verify it with the state association of lawyers.
Fixed Fee. In this case you pay the lawyer an amount of dollars established by a particular service, such as the writing of a will. If the matter is simple and simple, say for example, a divorce by common consent or the simple presentation of a bankruptcy or bankruptcy, many lawyers charge, often a fixed fee. Be sure to find out exactly what is included in this type of fee.
Hourly Rates The lawyer charges a fee established per hour. The final cost to pay will depend on how long it takes to complete your work. The hourly rate of attorneys’ fees varies according to their knowledge and experience. An experienced lawyer may charge higher fees but can also complete the work more quickly. Because the hours of work on your case can increase rapidly, you should ask for a written estimate estimating the number of work hours needed to complete your case and have an idea of the amount that your final bill will amount to.
Advance of Fees. Your lawyer may ask you to pay a fee in advance. A lawyer can use this type of fee – often called an advance payment (retainer in English) as a down payment to cover expenses and fees. It is important that you check your account periodically to see how your money is being spent.
Public Legal Services. Depending on your financial situation, you may be eligible to obtain free or low-cost legal services through special organizations. For example, you may be eligible to obtain free representation for divorce cases or rent disputes between landlords and tenants. Look in your local telephone directory to find organizations that provide legal services or legal clinics associated with law schools.
Prepaid Legal Plan. Some organizations offer prepaid legal service plans that work as insurance policies. In exchange for a monthly fee you receive certain legal services when you need them. The fees charged and the covered services may vary based on each state law and the particular plan. Review each plan carefully to make sure you are aware of the coverage provided by the plan and if it corresponds to your particular situation.
Save Copies and Keep a File
It is very likely that your lawyer will ask for documents related to your case. Keep copies if you give the originals to your lawyer. Request copies of all important documents. When you receive a bill from your lawyer, review it carefully and ask for explanations about any charge or fee charged that you do not clearly understand.
In a class action, a court decides that a group of people – a class – may have been harmed in a similar way. You can receive notices or notifications asking if you want to be included in the applicant group. Read the notice carefully. If you do not take any action, it usually becomes part of the default class. If this is the case, you are bound to the outcome of the class action lawsuit; he cannot present his own case; and you will not have direct control over the claim. However, you may object to any agreement entered into or the amount of attorney’s fees. If you choose not to be a member of the class action, preserve your right to present your own case and control it directly.
If you are dissatisfied with the work performed by your lawyer on your behalf, you can dismiss or disengage from him at any time. In some types of cases, you may need a judge’s authorization to do so. Measure the costs and benefits of starting the case again with another lawyer. Your case may be delayed and may cost you more money.
Attorneys are subject to state professional ethics rules and are required to charge reasonable fees; if you think your lawyer is not acting properly, does not adequately represent you or charges you too much, contact him and try to reach a resolution. If you cannot find a satisfactory solution directly with your lawyer, consider filing a complaint with the state or local bar association. Some States, they have arbitration services to mediate in this type of disputes. If you are satisfied with the professional services that your lawyer has provided, remember to also transmit this message.