Whether you need a bankruptcy attorney, a criminal attorney, or an estate planning attorney, the worst question to ask him or her is: “Do you handle (fill in the type of case or the area of law)?” Many attorneys need work, and they may be tempted to answer “yes” to your question, whether or not they are familiar with a particular area of law. Even if an attorney has some familiarity with a particular area of law, it may not be his or her primary area of practice.
A much better question to ask is: “What area of law do you specialize in?” The new client should not tell the attorney about his or her matter until the attorney has described to the client his or her legal background and experience. Even then, it would be helpful for the client to ask: “For how many years have you been practicing in that area?”
Getting recommendations from friends and relatives of yours is a good way to find an attorney. If you tell your friend or relative about your legal issue, he or she may know an attorney who practices in that area. Even if you are given a name, you should ask your friend or relative whether he or she has had personal experience with that attorney or whether he or she has only heard about the attorney from other people. If the friend or relative has only heard about the attorney from other people, he or she may be able to give you the names of the other people so that you can ask them directly what type of experience they had with the attorney in question.
It is critical to verify with the attorney how you will be charged for the legal work. Is it by the hour? Is it a percentage of your recovery? Does the attorney require a retainer? Is there a maximum fee? What work will be done by the attorney in return for the fee that you pay? Are there other fees or costs that may come up that you may have to pay in addition to the attorney’s fee?