Lawyers are expensive, and you don’t want to waste your money or your time hiring one who isn’t the right fit for you and your situation. To help you avoid mistakes when it comes to choosing an attorney, here are nine of the worst mistakes that can put you in a hole before you even get started.
1) Assuming all attorneys are the same
Often, people believe that all attorneys are alike. They think, How hard can it be to hire a lawyer? However, not all attorneys are equal in experience or skill level. Some may have been out of law school for less than a year while others may have 20 years of experience. If you need help with your case, choose someone who has the experience and a good track record of success.
2) Not knowing what you need
Whether you’re in a legal dispute or just facing some sort of challenge that requires an attorney, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of your options. It can be difficult to know where to turn when seeking legal assistance, and how much time and money you should invest. Before hiring an attorney, make sure you have all of your questions answered: What type of services do I need? What will they cost? How quickly will we get results? And more importantly, what is my end goal?
3) Expecting an attorney will make all your problems go away
The attorney’s role is to protect your rights, help you achieve your goals and give you legal counsel. The right lawyer can do all that, but they won’t solve all your problems. If you want things to happen quickly, it’s best to go with a hired gun instead of a general practice firm; these attorneys specialize in specific areas like litigation or intellectual property law.
4) Being too vague about your case
Many attorneys charge flat fees per hour, so they’re incentivized to spend as much time on your case as possible. If you give your attorney too little information about your situation and what you want them to do, they may stretch out their time working on your case unnecessarily. It’s up to you to educate yourself and speak up if something seems off—your attorney can’t read your mind!
5) Not considering the attorney’s experience level
The amount of experience a lawyer has is important. A lawyer who’s been practicing for 20 years is going to know a lot more than one who’s only practiced law for 2 years. But, that doesn’t mean they should be your top choice just because they have more experience.
6) Making a decision based on price alone
Look, I get it. You want to make sure you’re getting a good deal on a lawyer, but don’t go with a law firm because it seems like they’ll charge you less. Price isn’t necessarily indicative of quality, so take your time and make sure you go with someone who will represent you well. If money is tight, apply for legal aid or other programs that might help cover costs.
7) Not checking references (or asking enough questions)
Like buying a used car, it is important to do your research before you hire a lawyer. While attorneys typically list their background on their website or LinkedIn profile, these two sources can be incomplete.
It is critical to contact previous clients and ask them about their experience with that attorney. Did they provide services as expected? Were they responsive and easy to reach? Did they perform well in court? Getting references from at least 3-5 previous clients is essential before hiring a lawyer.
8) Waiting too long before hiring counsel
While you may think a small issue will blow over, it’s always best to seek legal help as soon as possible. An attorney can help protect your rights and make sure you’re not being cheated or defrauded. A lawyer can also identify weaknesses in your case and give advice on how to proceed.
9) Failing to follow up with your attorney
Many people don’t realize that a great deal of work happens behind the scenes during the legal hiring process. You’re likely to make your attorney’s job harder if you fail to follow up with him or her once you hire him or her. Do your research and be persistent; follow up with your attorney so he can focus on getting you results. After all, that’s why you hired him or her!