1. How long have you been in practice? While many young attorneys have the potential to become accomplished trial lawyers, you do not want your case handled by a novice.
2. Do you have a policy of professional liability insurance? Like doctors, attorneys should maintain a malpractice insurance policy in the event that mistakes occur.
3. Have you taken cases like mine to trial or settlement, and if so, how many? An accomplished attorney will have taken several cases like yours to trial and/or settlement. This answer is an indicator of the prospective attorney’s experience and skill.
4. About how much of your practice focuses on cases like mine? To attain real expertise, an attorney should focus at least 75% of his time on the subject matter and practice areas involved in your case.
5. Will you be working on my case alone or do you routinely have junior attorneys assist on matters like mine? Junior associate attorneys often perform work on many matters for more senior, accomplished attorneys. You should, however, ask to meet these attorneys in order to evaluate them. The subject matter of your case and the laws governing it might seem foreign and unintelligible but you should not ignore your own personal judgment when it comes to sizing up a prospective attorney and his employees.
6. How quickly do you typically return client phone calls? Some attorneys are notorious for failing to return client phone calls. In fact, this complaint usually tops the list of all client complaints about their lawyers. Your attorney should have a policy whereby he returns client calls within 24 hours, absent unusual circumstances. Be sure to have your attorney put this requirement in your retainer agreement, to ensure compliance.
7. Do you routinely take the time yourself to explain to clients all of the court procedures, legal concepts, fee arrangements, billing practices, retainer agreements, and payment of costs? Your attorney should answer in the affirmative, as these matters are integral to your case. By asking this question, you are demonstrating that you are willing and able to learn about your case and be completely involved.
8. What is your method or strategy for handling cases like mine? Your attorney should have a streamlined process for “working-up” cases like yours. The level of detail contained in the attorney’s process will demonstrate his organization skills and familiarity with the subject matter and law of your case.
9. How long before we reach trial or settlement in my case? An attorney who promises settlement or recovery almost immediately should be avoided. Yet your attorney should be able to provide a reasoned estimate of the time required to reach the conclusion of your case.
10. What is the best way for me to help you in order that we reach a successful outcome in my case? And, most importantly, in your expert opinion do you believe that I have a case or is my situation just one of those unfortunate cases with no real chance of recovery? (This question should be asked with the knowledge that terrible things do happen and sometimes there is no legal recourse). Not all wrongs have a legal remedy. Your attorney might recommend that you not pursue your case. This is probably the most important question to ask and the most difficult answer to hear, but a quality attorney will provide you an action plan to handle your case that outlines your participation and the likely chance of victory.
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