March 2021 - Finding the Right fit When You Need a Lawyer
When you need a lawyer, it’s important to find one who is the right fit for you and your situation. Here are important considerations to help you make that choice.
Relevant experience – Choose a lawyer whose focus is in the practice area related to your situation. After all, you wouldn’t ask a real estate lawyer to help with your personal injury case or a criminal lawyer to negotiate your divorce.
Track record – Sometimes it’s in your best interest to fight your case to the furthest extent possible; other times it would benefit you to negotiate a fair and equitable settlement. Choose a lawyer with a reputation for knowing the difference because, ultimately, you want the most efficient resolution possible.
Communication skills – Communication between lawyer and client is key to any case. Your lawyer should inform you of your case’s progress, explain all available options and respond to inquiries in a timely manner. It is also important that you feel comfortable enough to openly communicate all relevant details of your situation.
Fee structure – Understand how the attorney charges - flat fee, contingency fee or hourly rate - and what those fees include. Unless on a contingency basis, ask if there is a retainer and, if so, how much. Find out the threshold for retainer replenishment and request monthly statements of your account to help avoid surprises.
Credentials – A lawyer’s credentials, affiliations and certifications can reveal such things as the jurisdictions where the lawyer can practice, the size of cases handled, and the level of experience, skill and knowledge demonstrated. For instance, a “Certified Civil Trial Attorney” designation is granted by the NJ Supreme Court only to lawyers who have:
- been in good standing with the NJ State Bar for at least 5 years,
- fulfilled ongoing legal education requirements,
- demonstrated substantial involvement in preparing litigation matters,
- demonstrated an unblemished reputation among attorneys and judges familiar with their work, and
- passed a written civil law exam.
The right lawyer can help alleviate some of the stress inherent in any legal situation. Choose wisely.