How do I choose my lawyer?

Choosing the right lawyer for you is no simple task. Lawyers and law firms are not identical and every client situation is unique. Below are some common questions and answers that should help in selecting a lawyer for you.

Who should I retain as my lawyer?

The client-lawyer relationship is unique. You will tell your lawyer things that you have never told anyone else. Your secret is to be kept in the strictest confidence that will even survive your death. Trust is essential to the relationship. Trust requires mutual respect and the ability to communicate without feeling uncomfortable. You should retain a lawyer that you trust, whom makes you feel comfortable, and you have confidence in.

What type of lawyer do I need?

Lawyers generally describe themselves by the area of law in which they do business. The area of practice can be large, as with general practices and full service firms, or it can be small, as with practices restricted to a specific area. A general practice lawyer will likely offer many services like incorporations and trademarks, whereas a practice restricted to trademarks will only provide trademark services. A little thought will help you determine the type of law involved and thus the type of lawyer.

Where do I look for a lawyer?

Lawyers may advertise only as allowed by the rules of the law society in their jurisdiction. Certain forms of advertising are prohibited. If you feel a lawyer or law firm has approached you in an inappropriate fashion, you may wish to contact your local law society for assistance. Inappropriate advertising aside, advertising allows a lawyer to indicate the areas of law in which he or she will accept work. Telephone or on-line directories may be of assistance. Friends may also be helpful in directing you to a competent lawyer. Law societies in most jurisdictions often have a referral network as well.

How quickly do I need a lawyer?

How quickly you need a lawyer has the greatest impact on the selection process. Urgency may not only reduce the quality of your choice and the corresponding results obtained, but rush legal services are often significantly more expensive. The single most important factor in obtaining the lawyer that is best for you is the time available to select him or her. Thus, it would be best to look for your lawyer before the services are absolutely required.

How do lawyers bill?

Lawyers mostly bill by time or flat fee. Contingency fees may also be used where allowed by a jurisdiction. In addition to fees, clients are also required to pay for sales/services taxes and disbursements as applicable. Disbursements are amounts spent on the client’s behalf that require reimbursement. Disbursements include courier charges, photocopying and court fees, but the list is endless. You hire lawyers for their time, not their photocopiers.

How much should I be paying for a lawyer?

Lawyer and law firm fees vary greatly. Fees generally relate to the experience and/or the overhead of a firm, but higher fees do not mean better results. It is prudent to shop around to find a fair rate. Many lawyers will allow a short free initial consultation in order to determine if they can help you. Some even provide quotations.

What is the difference between a lawyer and a law firm?

A law firm is a law business operated by one or more lawyers. A law firm can be any size. When you hire a lawyer, you hire the firm. Unless specified, any lawyer in the firm can be involved with your file. It is very important to know which lawyers in a firm are actually performing the work on your file as the experience and skill of the firm lawyers may vary.

Does the size of the law firm matter?

The basic answer is no. The size of the firm does not indicate its quality. There are many excellent small, medium and large sized firms. The quality of the legal work is more a function of the lawyer(s) actually assigned to the file than the firm itself. Thus, it may be more important which lawyer(s) is(are) working on your case than which firm. This is especially true of firms where the lawyers are constantly changing.

Does the location of the firm matter?

The location of your law firm is not as important as it was in the past. Technology has changed the way some law firms do business. Clients now have the luxury of meeting with their lawyers less frequently as a result of technology. Firms who have technological savvy can make it easier for clients who do not want to travel to and from an office, especially where parking is difficult or expensive. Some excellent firms and lawyers are moving their offices from the downtown urban centers to reduce their expenses and their fees. Thus, if a firm has integrated technology into its practice then its location may not matter to it or you.