Hiring an attorney can be one of the biggest decisions you make. At some point, most people find themselves in a situation where they seek out the counsel of an attorney. Situations arise and you need someone to help you get through the tough parts of life. However, you have a lot to consider when choosing the right attorney for your situation. The wrong choice can set you back years financially. The bigger the legal issue, the more time you should spend making sure you chose the right attorney or law firm.
Legal matters in Louisiana range from minuscule to life alteration and it is wise to speak with an attorney before you make any big decisions. There are a wide variety of legal matters and most attorneys specialize in only a few areas of law. You wouldn’t entrust the future of your family in the hands of an attorney that doesn’t specialize in family law, just as you would want to bring your medical malpractice claim to an experienced attorney who handles those types of cases on a daily basis. With that being said, there can easily be overlap in the types of cases attorneys handle. For example, many criminal defense attorneys in Louisiana also handle family law because the two go hand-in-hand. Do your homework and ask the right questions during your consultation.
The good thing about the internet age is you can research Louisiana attorneys before you make the first call. Read client reviews in depth to be sure you feel comfortable with the attorney, but keep in mind, not all reviews are honest. Opposing parties have been known to write negative reviews about attorneys they never worked with.
Most Louisiana attorneys offer a free consultation before hiring them. Use this opportunity to meet with your potential attorney and discuss any concerns you may have. This is your chance to kick the tires and determine whether your personalities and goals match. There’s nothing wrong with meeting with an attorney and not hiring them. Spend as much time as you need getting to know them because your case could easily take a number of years and you will have to deal with your attorney often depending on the complexity of your case.
This guide will give you some insight and tips on how to hire an attorney in Louisiana and to ensure you make an informed decision. Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice. It is merely a guide to help you learn more about choosing the best attorney in Louisiana for your legal matters.
Questions to Ask Your Attorney During a Consultation:
- Have you handled cases like mine before?
- Will you handle my case or another lawyer in your firm?
- What can you do for my case?
- What happens if we lose?
- What is your strategy to win my case?
- What information do you need from me?
- How much are your legal fees?
What Items Should I Bring to My Lawyer Consultation?
- Something to take notes with.
- Documents that are relevant to your case such as photos, receipts, agreements, text messages, emails, etc.
- Questions you wrote down so you wouldn’t forget.
- Payment for the initial consultation unless it’s a free consultation.
- Payment to hire the attorney if you are satisfied.
Should I Dress Up to Meet Potential Lawyers?
Most people wear their regular, everyday clothes when meeting with an attorney for the first time. Attorneys don’t expect you to dress up, but your first impression can impact the way your attorney perceives you.
It may be a good idea to wear business casual to put your best foot forward to begin your representation, but you don’t have to go all out in the wardrobe department.
Are Lawyer Consultations Free?
Most lawyers offer free consultations to earn your business, but there are a few that still charge consultation fees. Many will charge a small consultation fee so they can determine exactly how serious you are about your case and hiring them to be your attorney. Potential clients will often visit a handful of attorneys to get free legal information and many attorneys began charging even for the initial meeting.
Always ask if your attorney offers free consultations to review your case.
How Much Do Lawyer Consultations Cost?
It’s rare that an attorney will charge a consultation fee, but they are usually around $100-$150 when they do. Be prepared to pay a small fee to have an experienced attorney review your case. Attorneys spend countless hours pouring over legal documents for clients and may charge you to speak with them.
10 Questions to Ask Your Lawyer Before Hiring:
1. Experience – How Long Have You Been a Lawyer?
Legal experience can make a huge difference in your case. The longer an attorney is in practice, the more types of cases and situations they will encounter. They’ve learned what each judge they practice in front of expects and they will have first-hand experience when a problem arises. However, experience isn’t to be confused with intelligence or passion. Just because an attorney is new to the career doesn’t mean they won’t be able to win your case. A new attorney could just as easily win and fight tooth and nail for your rights. Legal experience is just one thing you should consider when hiring an attorney in Louisiana.
You want an attorney that’s passionate about winning your case or protecting your rights. This is your life and your case could affect you for years. Find the attorney that will work your case diligently, intelligently and with passion.
Do they enjoy handling cases like yours or will they try to pawn it off to another lawyer in the firm? Will they avoid your phone calls or jump at the opportunity to assist you?
3. Responsiveness – How Fast Will You Call Me Back?
There’s a good chance you will have to contact your attorney multiple times for the duration of your case. Many attorneys are available when you call, but some are tough to nail down when you need to check on the status of your case. A responsive attorney is one that will answer your calls, return emails and possibly text if that’s how you agree to communicate. Attorneys are busy individuals, but they must make themselves available to discuss your case when you need them. If it takes weeks for your attorney to return your call, you may need to reevaluate whether they are the best fit for you. However, be prepared to not have your phone call returned the same day in some instances. Attorneys spend a great deal of time in court and they can’t always estimate when they will finish, so keep that in mind.
4. Practice Areas – What Types of Cases Do You Normally Handle?
General practice attorneys practice in a few different areas of Louisiana law, while others specialize in one narrow portion of the law. No attorney can be the expert in every aspect of law. There just isn’t enough time to learn everything.
Your attorney will likely be well-versed in a few areas and that’s what they focus their law practice on. You need to ask the right questions during your free consultation to determine that your attorney actually handles your type of case. Ask them how many cases of that nature they take and how many they’ve taken in their career. You probably don’t want to be that attorneys first case in that area of law unless they can prove they are up to the challenge.
If you need a Louisiana divorce, seek out a divorce attorney that has a focus on cases just like yours. If you need to file a Louisiana succession, locate the best attorney in your area that handles those.
5. Case Load – Are You Able to Start My Case Now?
Louisiana attorneys usually have a steady case load. If you live in Louisiana, you know there is a large amount of litigation. Just drive down the highway and you will see attorney billboards one after another and sometimes on both sides. With that being said, you want to speak with your potential lawyer and find out how busy their case load is. You don’t want to wait for months before they can speak with you about your case upon you retaining and paying them. They could be in the midst of a month-long case with no breathing room or time to draft a petition for you. It’s important to find out a time-frame for when your Louisiana attorney will be able to assist with your legal needs.
6. Price – What Are Your Legal Fees?
Attorney price is low on the list for “How to choose an attorney in Louisiana,” because it’s better to pay more and get the job right – sometimes. Attorneys charge hourly fees, flat fees and contingent fees and you need to know how each of them work before signing the contract. Hourly fees are self-explanatory: you pay the set hourly price that your attorney charges. There’s a small caveat – you need to get an estimate from them as to how many hours your legal issue will take. Flat fees are when an attorney charges a set price no matter how long the legal work takes. Many law firms are moving towards flat fees because all parties know how much the legal services will cost and there are no surprises. Contingent fees are prevalent on personal injury and workers’ compensation cases where the attorneys usually only get paid if they get a settlement for you.
7. Personality/Compatibility – Am I Your Usual Client?
You and your attorney must mesh well. You don’t have to have similar personalities, but you need to be able to speak with them and get along with them as professionals. You may not want an aggressive attorney, especially if you’re more laid back. It helps to speak with them in person to determine compatibility. You and your attorney are essentially a team and must work together to get the best outcome. If you constantly clash with your attorney, your case could suffer and the experience will be worse than it needs to be.
8. Lawyer Reviews – Where Can I Read More About You?
You can find information on every business these days, including lawyers. Google your potential lawyer and read what other clients have said about them. Keep in mind that often only unhappy clients write reviews and that opposing parties will sometimes leave negative reviews to harm an attorney that won a case against them. Take it all with a grain of salt, but do read as many lawyer reviews as you can. Ask around the community about the lawyer you’re contemplating hiring and you can learn a lot. If an attorney takes a large number of cases in a community, there likely be people you know who have hired them in the past. This is a wealth of information that you should find out before hiring an attorney in Louisiana.
9. Conflicts – Can You Handle My Case?
A lawyer can be conflicted out of taking your case. What that means is they may have some connection to your legal issue that disallows them to take your case. There are many reasons why an attorney would not be able to take a case due to conflicts, so you must speak with them before going further to make sure they can actually be retained in your legal matter.
10. What Is Likely to Happen in My Case?
Not all cases are winnable. Your attorney should have enough experience to know what your chances are. You don’t want an attorney that will say it’s impossible to lose because it never is. No case is perfect and you want your attorney to tell you the truth. You will want to know exactly what you could be facing should you lose.
Follow Your Gut
Lastly, you must follow your gut while choosing an attorney in Louisiana. This is something that can’t be quantified or measured – you have to go with how you feel. If you don’t feel comfortable when speaking with them, they may not be the right attorney for you. Choosing an attorney to represent you in a legal matter is a huge undertaking and should not be taken lightly.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be taken as legal advice. Please speak with an attorney if you have legal questions or need legal assistance as this blog post does not constitute legal advice.