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Monday, January 14, 2008

CHOOSING AN ATTORNEY

TOPIC: ATTORNEYS

By Sean Hayden, Esq.

You’ve just put in an offer for your dream apartment and the seller’s broker says “So can I have the contact information for your attorney?” You say, “Uhhhh….”

One of the most daunting tasks a person can face is choosing a lawyer. And it not any easier when you’re under a time clock to secure counsel.

An attorney should be a part of your life planning “team.” I always say everyone should have in their back pocket a primary care physician, an accountant, a financial advisor and an attorney.

Often professionals in your life, such as brokers, financial advisors and accountants, will have good recommendations for legal counsel. Some of the best sources for attorneys can also be from your friends. Be sure to ask them what they liked and what they didn’t like about the attorney and whether they would enlist the attorney’s services again.

Once you find an attorney, schedule an initial consultation after confirming your matter is the type of matter handled by the attorney. Also be sure to confirm the cost of the consultation. Many attorneys will offer a consultation for no fee or for a reduced rate.

The initial consultation is your opportunity to interview the lawyer and assess whether he is right for you. It is helpful that you take any relevant questions and documents with you which the attorney may need to adequately address your concerns.

What types of questions you should pose in the consultation?

Does the attorney frequently handle your type of matter? How many similar matters has he handled in the past year? Remember attorneys have become more like doctors in that they specialize. You probably don’t want a lawyer who takes on anything that walks in the door.

Will the attorney you are interviewing be personally handling your file or will be passed to paralegals or to less experienced associate attorneys?

How available is the attorney at the moment? Is his workload such that your matter cannot be given priority?

How will you be billed? Will the attorney bill at a flat rate or an hourly rate?

Finally, what is your feeling about how responsive the attorney will be? Does he seem aloof and not sensitive to your needs? Many a client has been disappointed by his attorney client relationship because an attorney did not promptly return phone calls or repeatedly dismissed the client's concerns about his file. Your attorney doesn't have to be your best friend. However, he should be someone with whom you feel comfortable and someone you trust!

And remember, the consultation is a two way street. The attorney may determine he cannot represent you due to a conflict of interest or he simply doesn't believe the relationship presents the right fit for the parties.


Good luck and good legal health!