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A Comprehensive Guide to Selecting the Best Lawyer
If you reached the conclusion that you need to hire a lawyer but you don’t know where to start, check out this step-by-step guide on how to choose the best attorney. You’ll find out tips on where to find a lawyer, what to look for, and how to save on your legal fees.
The Most Common Types of Lawyers
Before you hire the first lawyer you come across, it is critical to understand the different types of lawyers, and the type of services they offer. It will help you to choose the right attorney for your needs.
Below is a list of 25 types of lawyers and what they specialize in.
- Corporate lawyers. Every business faces major legal procedures and decisions from its inception and throughout its operations. Corporate lawyers come in to help with company incorporation and licensing, mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and franchising, tax matters and creating employment contracts.
- Government lawyers. Each government agency has attorneys to oversee legal aspects involved in its operations such as writing legal documents, handling litigation, defending or prosecuting cases in court, and preparing legislations among others.
- Employment lawyers offer advice and representation to employees on issues such as workplace discrimination, illegal layoffs, and poor working conditions.
- Immigration lawyers help people to navigate immigration processes such as visa and green cards acquisition, legal representation when faced with deportation, or when seeking asylum.
- Family lawyers deal with issues of adoption, child abuse, alimony, child custody and support of domestic violence victims.
- Criminal lawyers fall under two main categories: defense attorneys and prosecutors. Prosecutors work for the government to press charges against suspected criminals while defense attorneys are hired by the accused to defend them against the charges. The government provides public defenders to accused individuals who cannot afford an attorney.
- Intellectual property lawyers help their clients to navigate patent, copyright or trademark application, and represent them in case of intellectual property rights infringement.
- Bankruptcy lawyers handle legal matters that are related to Chapter 7, 11 and 13 of the constitution in regards to bankruptcy and debt. They also help with debt collection and settlement.
- Tax lawyers advise their clients on taxation related matters, represent and guide clients who are in dispute with the IRS.
- Contract lawyers are especially useful to a small business to help them draft, negotiate and enact legally binding agreements.
- Estate planning attorneys work with their clients to help them plan their assets and property for when the client is incapacitated or deceased. They also draft estate planning related documents such as wills, trusts, deeds, and power of attorney.
- Personal injury lawyers either represent a victim of a personal injury who is suing for damages, or the individual or entity being sued. Common personal injury cases include medical malpractices, slip and falls, libel and defamation, product liability, animal bites, and car accidents among others.
- Social Security Disability lawyers assist persons with disabilities to access disability support services.
- Public Interest lawyers offer their services for free to individuals who cannot afford legal services. They often work with nonprofit organizations and government agencies.
- Civil litigation lawyers work with individuals whose constitutional rights have been trampled on.
- Toxic Tort lawyers are personal injury attorneys who help people who have been exposed to toxic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, water and air to seek compensation.
- Entertainment lawyers represent individuals and companies in the entertainment industry such as singers, record agencies, and actors. They offer legal advice when negotiating deals, draft contracts and handle copyright and intellectual property issues on behalf of their clients.
- Real Estate lawyers are involved in closing real estate deals, foreclosures, zoning, landlord-tenant agreements, permit acquisition, and preparing relevant documents.
- Legal malpractice attorneys represent other attorneys who are facing charges of wrongdoing against a client.
- Digital media and internet lawyers deal with all sorts of legal issues that arise from the use of the internet and digital media such as mobile phones, computers, and tablets.
- Divorce lawyers support married couples to navigate legal matters involved divorce and separation.
- DUI (Driving under the Influence) lawyers help clients facing DUI charges.
- Mediation lawyers specialize in out of court settlements where they act as mediators between the two conflicting parties.
- Traffic law attorneys Assist in traffic related issues such as overdue fines, ticketing, and driving license suspension.
- Consumer attorneys represent consumers seeking justice against service or product malpractices, deceitful advertising, or services that cause physical harm to the client.
5 Factors to Consider when Hiring an Attorney
Take your time to do your due diligence before getting into a contractual agreement with any lawyer. Here are 5 factors to put into consideration when hiring an attorney.
Attorneys offer a wide range of services including providing legal advice, helping clients prepare and review legal documents, and representing their clients in negotiations, in a court of law, or during legislative hearings. They also serve as mediators or arbitrators. Assess your situation to determine what type of legal service you require.
Lawyer’s Specialization, Qualifications, and Experience
Choose a lawyer who specializes in your type of case. For instance, if dealing with a divorce, go for a divorce attorney. Many states in the US offer specialty courses that certify lawyers to work in a given area of law. For instance, the National Board of Trial Advocacy offers specialization courses in civil trial law, criminal law, family trial law and social security disability law. However, some lawyers may not have professional certification for a particular specialty but may have become experts by working on numerous cases in that area.
Attorney fees range depending on the nature of your case and attorney’s qualifications and experience. In most case, highly qualified and experienced attorneys will charge exorbitantly in comparison to their colleagues who are starting out in the practice. Some lawyers offer a flat rate; others are paid on an hourly basis or accept prepaid legal services.
An attorney-client relationship is two-fold. You should expect your attorney to be ethical, communicative, to treat the information you offer him/her with confidentiality, and to have your best interest at heart. However, you need to play your part in the relationship as well by being forthright, providing the necessary information and honoring your part of the agreement.
During the interview, gauge your interaction with a potential attorney to determine whether you feel comfortable opening up to him.
Attorney’s Track Record and Reputation
Getting credible attorney reviews will help you decide if the lawyer you are considering is a right fit for you. Most legal services reviews will give you insight into attorneys’ ratings, and their reputation. Consider the positive feedback and the complaints too. You can find numerous online legal services reviews on Google and Pacer.gov.
4 Tips to Save on Legal Fees
While an attorney will help you greatly in handling the legal issue at hand, attorney fees can quickly get out of hand. These 4 tips can help you cut down on legal fees
Get a prepaid legal services plan
A prepaid legal plan takes the model of an insurance plan whereby for a monthly or annual premium, you can access the legal services you need. Low-cost plans cover simple legal services such as legal documents drafting and reviews, and over the phone consultations. Expensive plans cover complex legal issues such as divorce, bankruptcy. Such plans are provided by employers, unions, credit card unions or sold to individuals.
Lay down details of the case and legal fees at the beginning of your engagement with your lawyer
You will be surprised how a simple detail you leave about the case can change the course of the case hence leading to increased legal fees. Discuss the timeline for making payments and have a clear breakdown of how much you will pay for what kind of legal service. For example, get an estimate of how much you will be charged for consultations, document preparation and review, and representation during mediation or trial. Opt for a flat rate instead of hourly rates.
Consider other alternatives for resolving legal issues other than litigation
Litigation is a complex, time-intensive and expensive undertaking. Whenever possible, explore mediation and arbitration as a means of settling legal conflicts before going on trial.
Do thorough research to enable you to hire the best legal services
Compare different rates offered by prospective attorneys to be able to determine a fair rate for you. For mundane and simple legal services such as document drafting and reviews, hire an entry-level lawyer. On the other hand, seek services of an experienced attorney for complex issues. Familiarize yourself with the legal procedures involved in your case and identify tasks that you can do on your own such as filling forms.
Legal issues are often sensitive and complex. Therefore, you want yours to be handled by the best lawyers. Legal services reviews and attorney ratings serve as a guide when selecting them. And the tips above will help you find a lawyer who is suitable for you.