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.

Ask These 5 Questions When Choosing a RESPA Real Estate Attorney

“What the heck is RESPA?”

Many attorneys try to handle real estate matters in addition to their regular practice. Very few lawyers are aware of the complexities of the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act (RESPA) enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD.)

RESPA statutes are consumer protection laws that impact virtually all single family to four family homes. RESPA compliance issues and the remedies available to borrowers who have been victimized by unscrupulous mortgage lenders, title companies and other real estate settlement providers are a real challenge. Even for full-time real estate attorneys, RESPA is a very complex statute. You must be careful and ask questions of the attorney you choose in order to make sure you get the proper legal protection that the RESPA statute i is designed to accomplish. Consumers and Businesses alike are protected when RESPA is in compliance.

Question #1

“What RESPA experience do you have?”

No doubt about it. Start with the big one. Real estate laws and regulations are complicated enough without adding RESPA to the equation. Have they prepared marketing agreements that comply? Have they attended RESPA specific training courses and seminars? Have they kept abreast of the most recent HUD guidelines and court cases nationally regarding RESPA? How many RESPA cases and clients have they handled? What types of RESPA cases did they handle? Were the issues similar to yours? What were their results? Don’t be shy!

Question # 2

“What type of reputation does the attorney have?”

This is a tough one to figure out – so do your homework! Is the attorney primarily a transaction attorney or a litigator skilled in courtroom procedures if necessary? Your attorney must have the communication skills necessary to work with the other attorney as well as you. The other attorney, if more knowledgeable on RESPA can run over you and your lawyer. Remember that many cases are won or lost on the attorney’s knowledge and high ethical standards. Check the local Bar association for background. Get references and check them out thoroughly.

Question # 3

“What type of resources does the attorney have?”

No attorney can do everything well. Make sure that your attorney has the resources available to work your case efficiently. Does the attorney have a well established network of experts and fellow attorneys who can network with to add value and expertise to your problem? Some attorneys try to do it all and act as a one man band. Your attorney’s ego should not be larger than your case. A good attorney quickly involves others with higher degrees of expertise in areas where it is needed to represent you properly. The experts they use are a reflection of your new attorney.

Question # 4

“What about communications and follow up?”

The hallmark of a good attorney is the degree of communication he has with his clients. If you have to ask “What’s going on with my case?” then you have a problem. You don’t want to have these types of issues after choosing an attorney. Be blunt and ask how often you will be contacted and updated. How will you be contacted? Will the attorney just send you a form letter or use personal communication and contact? How do you prefer to be contacted? E-mail, phone calls, letters? Ask for it. “Are you too busy to handle me? Are you going to push me to a lower level staffer or junior attorney?” Clear communication and updates can ensure success and results.

Question # 5

“How do they charge?”

Some attorneys charge a flat fee, some charge a contingency based upon results and some charge hourly rates. The type of problem or case generally dictates the type of charge. There is an old saying, “Speed, Efficiency and Price – pick TWO!” The cheapest attorney may not be the best and the most expensive attorney may not be the best either! Make sure that you are not penny wise and dollar foolish. You are choosing an attorney for results. Make sure that your attorney has the financial incentive to work your case efficiently and successfully.

How to Find a Reasonably Priced Bankruptcy Attorney?

If you are facing bankruptcy you are probably experiencing severe financial problems. The last thing you want is to incur more expenses. You may be thinking that you would not even need a bankruptcy attorney if you could afford to have one in the first place. However, one of the expenses you should never cut back on is a good bankruptcy attorney. The field of bankruptcy is a complicated one with many minefields. You cannot go without the expertise or skill of a good bankruptcy attorney during this process. There are far too many opportunities to get something wrong and destroy your entire case. You will be much better off if you hire a bankruptcy attorney. What is complicated for the every day man and woman on the street is a daily activity for bankruptcy attorneys.

How Much Does a Bankruptcy Attorney Cost?
There is no fixed fee for a bankruptcy attorney so it is impossible to predict exactly how much you will have to pay your attorney. There are many things that determine the fees (continue reading to learn more about them). But, it is possible to make a general estimation of how much you should expect to pay. Note that the fee that you pay is for his or her service and assistance. It is not the total mount that you will have to pay for the entire process. For example, when you file for bankruptcy you will have to pay a filing fee. For now, you can pay something from $800.00 to $2,000.00 in case your case is a normal one.

What Determines Bankruptcy Attorney Fees?

– Location:
The area in which you find a bankruptcy attorney will greatly determine the fees that you have to pay for his or her services. For example, if you hire an attorney in the Upper East Side of Manhattan you will have to pay more attorney fees than someone who hires an attorney in Brooklyn which is a cheaper area of New York City. If you live in an expensive area you can save on the fees by hiring an attorney from a different location. Just make sure that the attorney you hire has experience in the court in which you are filing as procedures sometimes differ from court to court.

– If you want to save money on bankruptcy attorney fees you should talk directly to the attorney that you are interested in hiring. Firstly, only the attorney will be able to tell you exactly how much you will have to pay for their services. Also, many attorneys are willing to negotiate their fees. If you are in a very bad situation you can use this to show the attorney your financial limitations and have them bring down their fees for you. Note that if your case is a very complex one it will be harder to renegotiate attorney fees as your case will not be run of the mill and will require more time and expertise on the part of the attorney. They too have financial responsibilities.

– If you really do not want to pay a large amount of bankruptcy attorney fees you should consider hiring an attorney who has just completed his training. Their fees will be significantly lower than an attorney who has had many years of expertise handling different kinds of bankruptcies. However, only hire an inexperienced attorney if your case is fairly standard and will not be a challenge for them. If your case is a complex one, you cannot take the risk of hiring someone inexperienced who could mess things up for you.