Find us on Google+
Educational Consumer Tips

Hiring a Lawyer

Author: Rachel Gelb
Category: Service

Whether you are filing a lawsuit, writing a will, or starting a business, legal assistance can be beneficial in a variety of situations. Lawyers and attorneys have experience handling and settling cases just like yours. It is important to carefully choose a lawyer that has expertise in your area of need. Use these tips when seeking legal advice or services.

Tips for Hiring a Lawyer or Attorney:

Ask for Recommendations.  Start by asking friends, family members, and coworkers for suggestions who have sought legal services for a similar reason. You can also search your state and local bar associations for lawyers with a specific expertise. Check with to make sure the lawyer or attorney is in good standing.  

Decide on the Size of the Firm.  Law firms can range from as little as one lawyer or as large as hundreds of lawyers and anywhere in-between. Larger firms usually handle more substantial cases involving government and public companies and can offer a great deal of resources. While smaller firms offer a personal one-on-one relationship while taking on smaller cases.

Visit for a Consultation.  Use this consultation time to interview the lawyer about their training and experience. Ask the lawyer what type of experience they have dealing with cases similar to your case what the outcome of those cases were. Find out how easy it will be to contact the lawyer throughout the process and how often they will update you about the case.  Provide a clear summary and bring any documents or materials that may help the lawyer. Ask who specifically will be doing the work on your case, what your chances of success are and ask for an estimate for when the issue will be resolved and complete. Find out if the lawyer charges a fee for the first consultation. Some lawyers may offer a free consultation if you decide to hire them for legal services.  

Understand the Costs.  Before working with the lawyer make sure they explain how you will be charged for their services. Ask for costs and fees to be broken down in writing. Some lawyers will provide you with the cost before taking your case while others will provide costs shortly after. The American Bar Association advises lawyers explain fees within a reasonable time. It is beneficial to hire a lawyer that has the experience you need, even if it means spending a little more. The four main methods for compensating a lawyer are: the retainer, contingent fee, established/flat fee, or hourly rate.  

  • The retainer is an upfront fee you pay the lawyer that is used as a down payment for expenses and fees.
  • The contingent fee method compensates the lawyer by giving them a percentage of any money you receive from the case. The percentage should correspond with the amount of time and effort that is required of the lawyer. The size of the contingency fee is always negotiable but check with your state’s bar association as there may be rules on maximum contingency fees.
  • An established or flat fee is a set fee lawyers charge to perform a certain service, like preparing a will.
  • The most common method is to charge an hourly rate. Lawyers have a set rate they charge for each hour that is spent working on the case. Hourly rates may depend on the lawyers experience and keep in mind a more experienced lawyer may charge a higher hourly rate but complete the work more quickly. Before the lawyer starts working, get an estimate in writing for the number of hours the case will require.   

Get the Agreement in Writing.  Make sure the lawyer draws up an agreement stating all terms and details of the case and your client relationship. Before signing the agreement, read it thoroughly and ask questions if there is any confusion. Save a copy of the agreement and other important documents, especially if you give the original documents to the lawyer.  Understand that if you are unhappy with your lawyer’s services you have the right to fire him or her at any time. Lawyers are subject to state ethics rules and if you are unable to come to a resolution over services with your lawyer, consider filing a complaint with the BBB and your state bar association.

About the Author: Rachel Gelb is Communications and Marketing Manager for BBB serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont. Find Rachel on Google +.

Questions and Comments

Comment Submitted 4/11/2014

Hiring a new attorney can be really scary. You want to make sure that you find someone that you trust and respect. It can be hard to find a good business but it is possible. ***** ******** * ******************************************
Views expressed on this page are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Better Business Bureau.

Rate this tip

Rate this tip by choosing the stars below.
Average Rating:

Submit a Comment or Question on this tip

(Name that will be displayed to the public)