5 Critical Mistakes Often Made When Hiring an Attorney & How to Avoid Those Mistakes

Finding an Attorney – Know Some Basics

At some point in life, just about everybody is going to need an attorney for something. It may be as mundane as signing finance documents to close on the purchase of a home or writing a simple will to issues as serious as accident liability or criminal defense. Whatever the situation, it is important to have wise and competent counsel. The problem is, most of us don’t need the services of an attorney very often, may not know one, or know how to go about finding an attorney that’s right for you. Like most things in life, the more you know and the more you are prepared the better. Selecting an attorney is no different. Let’s start at the beginning and work through the process.

It may sound simple, but the starting point should be to define if and why you need an attorney. There are times when not having one, or putting off contacting one, can actually make things worse. Don’t fall for ads claiming you can write your own will, handle your own divorce or set up your own Limited Liability Company (LLC). It may be possible to so with some of the packages that are offered, but what you don’t get is important legal counsel to advise you of any legal vulnerabilities, how to be sure your rights are being protected or whether those documents will stand up if challenged in court. There’s some truth to the old axiom, “A person who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.”

Once you’ve defined why you need an attorney, decide what type of attorney you need. Some attorneys are “general practitioners” while others are specialists in one particular area of law. If you are going to be involved in a personal injury case or a divorce, it may be wise to seek out an attorney who has experience specializing in that area.

Finding the right attorney is going to take a bit of work on your part. You can always start by checking the Yellow Pages or web sites, but the most effective means is to ask people you know or professionals in your community for referrals. You can also check with the state bar for a list of attorneys in your area as well as consult a legal referral service. Whatever you do or however you begin your search, you must do your due diligence. The more you know, the more satisfying the results of your search.

When you’ve narrowed your list of potential attorneys, the next step is to begin contacting them. That contact may be made by phone, or by scheduling a meeting, and many attorneys don’t charge for a “first consultation.” However, before scheduling such a meeting, be sure you understand whether there will be any fee involved. Through the process of choosing an attorney, remember that you are the consumer purchasing their services. Don’t be shy about asking questions. It’s always best to be a smart consumer.

During your search and consultation meetings, be prepared and specific about your expectations. If there are any documents that pertain to the situation you will be discussing, have them with you should they be needed for reference or verification of information. It is also a good time to talk about the attorney’s fees. Depending on the case, fees may differ. Some examples are:

Hourly: Many attorneys base their fees on an hourly rate. This can vary significantly depending on the experience of the attorney and the size of the law firm.

Flat Fee: Some cases may be charged a flat fee. For example, a simple divorce, bankruptcy or basic will may be handled for a set amount with any additional charges added like mileage or court fees.

Retainer: There may be times when an attorney asks for a certain amount up front to work as an account to draw against as the case progresses. In other instances, like for a business, an attorney may be retained on a continuing basis for an agreed upon fee.

Contingency: In this case, the attorney receives a percentage of the judgment as the fee. This is most common in personal injury and liability cases. The fee is paid once the court has set the judgment. If the judgment does not go in your favor, there is no fee.

Be sure you understand and agree to the fee schedule before signing an agreement with an attorney.

The last step in choosing an attorney is interviewing, checking credentials and references. When you hire an attorney, think of it as hiring an employee. In many ways, that’s what they are. They are working for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about other cases they have had that are similar to yours and what was involved in the case. You need to know what the attorney’s previous experience is. He or she may have been practicing law for twenty years, but they may not have extensive experience with cases like yours.

Ask for references. A reputable attorney will not have a problem with this as long as giving you such information does not breech any attorney/client privilege. It may not be out of order to ask what the attorney’s success rate is. In some instances it may help give you an impression of their skill or complexity of the cases they handle. Ask what percent of the cases handled by their firm is normally devoted to cases like yours.

Be prepared to answer personal questions that may be relevant to your case such as information regarding your finances, marital status, lifestyle or criminal record. Should you be asked such questions, be truthful. Your attorney cannot be effective if you don’t tell them the truth, even if it’s embarrassing or you think it may hurt your case.

There can be a great deal involved in working with an attorney when you need one. It is important to find one you feel comfortable with and trust. Taking the steps discussed above is by no means a comprehensive list of everything you may need to do to select an attorney that is just right for you, but it will give you a good start.

Remember to be proactive, do your due diligence in your search and don’t be afraid to compare and ask questions. Choosing the right attorney is a big decision, but one that you can make with confidence when you have done your research and come prepared.

5 Steps to Hiring a Brain Injury Attorney

One of the most important decisions a traumatic brain injury survivor must make following an accident is choosing the right attorney. Finding the best attorney for your case can be a daunting task, especially for someone with a brain injury.

Choosing an attorney should not be taken lightly in Wisconsin, because the law here makes it extremely difficult to fire your personal injury attorney and find a new attorney to take over your case. The following 5 simple steps will help you find the right Brain Injury Attorney for your case.

1. Identify the Type of Case You Have

Start by identifying your particular accident. If you were injured in an automobile crash, then you need an attorney handling auto accident claims. If, on the other hand, you were injured in a semi-truck crash, then you need an attorney that has successfully handled tractor-trailer accidents in the past. The Internet is a great resource to gather general information about your particular accident and finding an attorney with experience handling such a case. For example, conduct a web search for “(your state) Car Accident Attorney,” “(your state) Truck Accident Attorney,” etc.

2. Research Your Specific Type of Injury and Your Symptoms

You should also conduct research on your specific type of injury and symptoms. For example, you could conduct a web search for “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury,” “Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury,” “Severe Traumatic Brain Injury,” “Post-Traumatic Headache,” “Dizziness,” etc.

3. Search for Names of Potential Attorneys

Once you have identified what type of case and the type of injury you have, and have done some preliminary internet research, you can begin searching for attorneys that have experience in accident cases that result in injuries to the brain. Again you should turn to the Internet. The Yellow Pages may also be of benefit, however, because there is a limited amount of information that can fit on one page it is usually an inadequate resource. Television is even less helpful, because of the time limit on the ads and the insistence of some personal injury attorneys to run generic catch-all commercials promising a big settlement on all types of case and injuries. Search the web for an attorney with experience handling your particular type of accident and your particular type of injury, including your symptoms.

Once you have your list of possible attorneys, you should read their particular websites closely. Check out the organizations to which they belong. They should belong to organizations that advocate for victims that have survived traumatic brain injuries. Also, look for past settlements and jury verdicts concerning traumatic brain injury.

4. Call and Request Written Material From the Attorney

It is critical that you choose the right attorney from the outset. You can simply call the first attorney you see on TV and set up an appointment. However, this is not recommended as it is hard for you to determine whether this attorney is truly experienced with traumatic brain injury based simply upon a TV advertisement. Instead, call and ask the potential attorney to send you information this attorney uses to develop and document his client’s traumatic brain injury symptoms. If you request written material before meeting with the attorney, then you cannot be pressured into signing something you may later regret. You will be able to first read the attorney’s educational materials and then decide on your own time whether this attorney is right for your case.

If you do call an attorney for written materials and instead of politely sending you some free educational information, they attempt to get you into their office or offer to send someone out to your house or hospital room, then beware. Brain injury victims are usually quite vulnerable following an accident and they should never feel pressured into signing anything, including an attorney’s fee agreement.

If the attorney or law firm does not offer informative, written materials, or if they are pressuring you to come in and sign a retainer, then they may not be reputable.

Keep in mind that the ethics rules prevent attorneys from directly contacting you in person, by telephone, or by email, unless you contact them first. If an attorney solicits you without your request, then you should immediately report them to the Office of Lawyer Regulation (877) 315-6941.

5. Schedule an In-Person Appointment with the Attorney and Ask Questions

Once you have done the necessary background research, it’s time to set up a face-to-face meeting with the attorney. Make a list of questions and bring the list with you to the appointment. If the attorney is competent and experienced with traumatic brain injury, he/she will likely appreciate your persistence and answer your question much more directly.

Here are some suggested questions to ask:

Will you be the one handling my case from start to finish? (If the answer is “no,” immediately request to meet with the attorney that will be handling your case from beginning to end).

What is the process for handling my case? What steps will you go through?

When will my case be ready to be resolved? (If the attorney promises a quick settlement, they may be telling you what they think you want to hear as opposed to the actual truth).

How many active cases are you personally handling at the present time?

Have you ever represented people with traumatic brain injuries before? What were some of the results?

How do you obtain most of your brain injury cases? (Referrals from attorneys, other professionals and former clients is the right answer).

Have you attended or presented at any brain injury conferences or seminars?

Do you belong to any trial lawyer brain injury organizations?

Are you a member of any national brain injury associations?

Are you a member of your state’s Brain Injury Association?

What is your AVVO ranking? (A rank of 9+ is excellent).

Attorneys that devote a majority of their practice to the representation of traumatic brain injury survivors will not be learning on the job during your case. They will not have to learn new medicine for your case.

Instead, you can be comfortable with an attorney experienced in the representation of brain injury victims knowing they have worked with some of the best experts in the fields of medicine for brain injuries and an experienced brain injury attorney will not be intimidated when faced with brain injury medical experts that have been retained by the insurance companies to say that you did not sustain a life-changing injury. As a result, experienced traumatic brain injury attorneys are usually in a much better position to obtain the appropriate amount of damages for their clients with traumatic brain injuries because they have a better idea as to the amount a jury may award for this specific kind of injury.