Lawyers will often provide a free or very low‑cost consultation to discuss the details of your case and give you an opportunity to ask some basic questions about the attorney and your legal matter.
This meeting should not only help you decide whether to go forward with a lawyer in general, but also whether you should proceed with this lawyer.
It’s a good idea to have a list of questions to ask during this meeting. Also, you should feel comfortable enough asking questions that relate to the lawyer’s expertise, experience, fees, special knowledge, and management of the case. Below are ten suggested questions to ask your potential lawyer.
1. How long have you practiced law?
At the very least, you want to know about the lawyer’s expertise and if the lawyer is a beginner or veteran. Your legal matter could be handled by an attorney fresh out of law school. It depends on your search.
2. What type of cases do you generally handle?
Also, what percentage of your practice is devoted to (the practice area in question)?
You want to know if the attorney is an expert in the topic area of your legal issues. For example, if you need help with a divorce case, you will want to find a family law lawyer who has years of experience in divorce cases.
3. Who is your typical client?
For example, if you are an individual with a particular legal problem, but the attorney, your meeting with, represents only corporations, this may not be the best lawyer for you.
Likewise, you may want to know the financial background of some of the lawyer’s clients. You want this information because there may be different issues a lawyer is used to factoring when working with high net‑worth individuals vs. college students.
4. How many cases have you represented that were similar to mine?
Now is not the time to be shy. Feel free to ask about the attorney’s track record, such as the number of cases won or settled.
5. Other than a law degree, what kind of special training or knowledge do you have that might apply in my situation?
Some cases, like DUI and patent cases, require specialized training and knowledge for effective representation. Be sure to ask whether or not your case fits into that category.
6. What are your attorney fees and costs, and how are they billed?
Will paralegals or legal assistants handle a portion or all of my case? If so, ask about reduced costs.
You will want to know if you can afford the lawyer’s services and how you will be required to pay. This question also offers an opportunity to ask about payment options and how often they will bill you.
7. What is your approach or philosophy to winning or representing a case?
This question is important in two ways.
- If you are seeking an amicable divorce, for example, but the attorney is known to be an aggressive attorney in divorce cases, the attorney may not be the right one for you.
- If you’re looking for an aggressive attorney to handle an upcoming corporate merger, you’ll want someone who isn’t afraid to be aggressive.
8. Are there others ways to solve my legal problem?
There is no reason not to ask the professional if there are any alternatives for solving your legal problems, such as through arbitration or some other out‑of‑court arrangement.
A good attorney informs you if you can handle your case through other less expensive and time-consuming means.
9. How will you let me know what’s happening with my case?
Communication between the lawyer and the client is key. Feel free to ask the lawyer how often you will hear from them. You’ll want to get updates on your case as well as future court dates.
10. What is the likely outcome in my case?
Generally speaking, it’s fair game to ask the attorney if you have a good chance of winning your case. You are not looking for the “right” answer, just an honest one.
For instance, if you’re facing an uphill battle in, let’s say, a nasty divorce situation, you’ll want to know up front from the attorney so you can prepare yourself for what lies ahead.
Finding the Right Lawyer for You
While the answers to questions you ask your lawyer will vary, it’s important to keep in mind that nothing is a guarantee.
Instead, these questions should give you a general knowledge of a specific lawyer’s experience and skill level, and if the lawyer is a good fit for you.