Hiring a lawyer is often a difficult and challenging task. These are some questions you might ask yourself when you are making this important decision.
1. How do I select a lawyer?
Personal recommendations from people you know and trust is the best method of finding a lawyer. Most of our referrals come from existing clients and from other professionals that work with us on a daily basis and are familiar with our services.
Many people today go online and use internet searches to locate a lawyer. Obviously, the results produced by search engines can be influenced by whether lawyers have paid for placement. Most of the large lawyer listing websites accept payments from lawyers to influence the results. Thus, an internet search is not very different from picking up the yellow pages and searching for the biggest advertisements.
The California State Bar provides a listing of attorneys who are certified specialists. Out of the 200,000 lawyers in practice in California, only a few thousand attorneys have received certification as specialists, reflecting special examinations and rigorous review of credentials.
We recommend that you meet with an attorney to make sure that you and the attorney understand each other's expectations and to see if you are comfortable with retaining the attorney. If you are in doubt, you should interview additional attorneys so that you have a basis for comparison.
2. Do I need a lawyer?
While many people today are knowledgeable and willing to try to handle their affairs without a lawyer, they will not have any assurance that their documents have been properly prepared and conform to acceptable norms. Many paralegal firms and internet companies are competing for your business and you should realize that there is a big difference between hiring an attorney and using self-help services.
Hiring a lawyer to assist you in your legal matters gives you greater assurance that what you intend to happen will actually take place. Many litigation matters are the result of poorly drafted instruments or poor advice of friends who lacked the experience and training of a lawyer. Lawyers study the mistakes of the past and this knowledge helps them avoid future mistakes.
Also, you will find today other professions attempting to provide services to their clients that were traditionally within the realm of lawyers. While there is some overlap between the professions, in legal matters you should not rely on the services of those who are trained in another profession. Would you be more comfortable having your dentist or your accountant prepare your income tax returns for you?
3. How much does it cost to hire a lawyer?
There is no single answer to this question. We provide fee estimates in advance that allow you to determine whether your situation warrants hiring a lawyer.
Most of our engagements are based on hourly fees for legal services. Each attorney in our firm charges for his time, so that if your case involves very little time and effort, the fee will be less than if your case requires substantial investments of time. As with most law firms, we do charge for telephone calls to the attorney and for preparing or reviewing correspondence (which includes emails).
Many of our estate planning engagements involve a fixed fee for a package of common documents.
In addition, any out of pocket costs that we incur in connection with your matter are also charged to you. For example, if there are filing fees paid to the court or recording fees for documents, these will appear on your invoice.
Occasionally, we are asked to take cases on a contingency fee basis, where we are paid if there is a recovery and not paid if there is no recovery. These cases are reviewed on a case by case basis.
In some probate matters, our fees are determined by court schedule and are subject to court approval.