Now that you managed to get an in person interview with a potential lawyer, you ought to ask the right questions! The top lawyers love people who take a pro-active and educated approach to their cases.
Here are some good questions to ask:
- How many years have you been in practice?
You will want an experienced lawyer to handle your case. The saying "practice makes perfect" stands true for lawyers practicing the law and going to trial, so you definitely want a lawyer who has had lots of practice.
- Do you have any actual experience handling my type of case?
Sure, this lawyer may be the best in handling slip and fall cases, but that doesn't mean he'll be able to successfully manage your dog bite case.
- Where can I read about your track record of successes in cases similar to mine?
Just like in any trial, you need evidence to prove an alleged fact. The attorney may say that he's had a ton of success in cases like yours in the past, but you should find out for yourself.
- What is the most difficult part about my case?
This question is not to "test" the attorney about your case. This question is solely for your own benefit. You should know the most difficult part of your case so you can be prepared if and when problems arise surrounding that topic. Once you find this out, you should also begin thinking of any information that you can provide to your lawyer to help them get a leg up on whatever issue is at hand.
- What is the process for handling my case?
A good lawyer will be able to lay out a timeline of your case, from beginning to end, and will be able to explain to you what will happen each step of the way. This is good information to know for tracking the progress of your own case and being prepared for what's coming up next.
- Who in your firm will be working on my case?
It is important that you know who else in the firm will be working on your case, whether it be associate attorneys, paralegals, interns, or anyone else. You need to know who has access to your information and who will be contacting you.
- How will you keep me informed about my case?
You never want to be left in the dark about your case, which is why it is necessary that your attorney have a system for contacting you and keeping you updated on your case through meetings, phone calls, and emails.
- Are you board certified?
If a lawyer is board certified by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification, then they have been evaluated by the board and have been declared an attorney of high quality in their certified practice area. In order to be board certified, an attorney "undergoes a thorough screening of their credentials, including: documentation of their experience, judicial and peer references, an exam, and they must report all disciplinary matters brought before any official body, whether public or private, for scrutiny by the NBLSC Standards Committee." You can find board certified attorneys on the NBLSC website, here.
- Have you published any articles, books, or guides for other attorneys or consumers?
If the lawyer is an educator for other attorneys and/or consumers, then there is a good chance that they are an expert in their practice area (not to mention a pretty good marketer). Any published materials that the lawyer has written is proof that they know what they're talking about and that they also know how to present legal information in a way that is easy for you, as the consumer, to understand. Their publications may also provide you with necessary information that will help you gain a better understanding of your legal issue.
- Are you listed in Best Lawyers in America? (to check go to BestLaywers.com)
Best Lawyers in America is based entirely on peer review. In order for a lawyer to be listed as a "Best Lawyer," they must be nominated, usually by a client or fellow lawyer, and then they are voted on by other lawyers in their practice area. If other lawyers give them a high rating and if the lawyer is in good standing with the state bar, then they are listed.
- What is your Avvo.com rating?
Avvo.com is an objective lawyer rating website for consumers. You want a lawyer with a high rating, which is a rating of about an 8 or higher. Avvo is unbiased, there is no favoritism, it's developed by legal experts for non-legal experts, and it's easy to understand.
- Do you have malpractice insurance?
You are going to want an attorney with malpractice insurance in case they were to ever act negligently, either intentionally or accidentally. If your attorney does not have malpractice insurance and you end up having to file a lawsuit against them for being negligent while working on your case, you may not have any legal remedy against your malpracticing lawyer.
- Can I find you listed in Super Lawyers? (go to SuperLaywers.com to check)
Super Lawyers is another great objective lawyer certification website and magazine. In order to be listed in Super Lawyers, an attorney is nominated, evaluated through research and peer-reviews, and then selected if he or she scores high on evaluation.
- What is my case worth?
This is a trick question because, typically, a lawyer - well, the good one's anyway - won't be able to tell you what your case is worth until you have finished your treatment. They need to receive all the doctor reports, the medical bills, and information from your employer before they can evaluate your case. They also might need to speak to your doctor about the nature and extent of your injury. After all of that, your lawyer will be able to make you a settlement evaluation that should come to you in writing before any demand is made on the insurance company.
- Can I take a copy of the written fee agreement home with to look over? (Keep in mind there is no “standard” fee and no standard fee agreement. Don’t think that if you have seen one, you have seen them all.)
You want to make sure that you are aware of every detail of the fee agreement. Take it home to check for hidden fees, tricky clauses, and anything else that could result in you paying more money than you expected to pay down the road.
- If you are looking for a disability, malpractice, or injury attorney, ask how much of their time they spend representing individuals against insurance companies in malpractice, injury and disability cases.
You will want a lawyer who spends at least 90% of their time representing individuals against insurance companies in malpractice, injury, and disability cases. These are the lawyer who have the most experience dealing with insurance companies, can interpret their language, and know what to expect next.
- What is your Martindale-Hubbell rating? (the highest they can get is AV Preeminent)
Martindale-Hubbell is another great lawyer rating website. Ratings "reflect a combination of achieving a Very High General Ethical Standards rating and a Legal Ability numerical rating. A threshold number of responses is required to achieve a rating." To find out more about their rating system, visit the Martindale-Hubbell website here.
- Lastly and perhaps the best question of all to ask them is:
What other local attorney would you trust to handle my case? Chances are that the name that comes up multiple times is as close to a “sure bet” to be right lawyer for you.
For more information on how to find the best lawyer for your case, download my FREE e-book, The Truth About Lawyer Advertising, here.