Remember that the ratio of results to cost for a lawyer is about 5 to 1. If you pay for a really good lawyer it’s about 10 to 1. If it’s an important matter pay more.
And remember that the principal offering of a lawyer is his or her time. Usually the very best value is in the first half hour because that is when your attorney defines the issue, the legal context – usually without cost. Withholding important details of your case is truly unwise, and cripples your attorney.
Its important to find a lawyer you feel comfortable representing you. Don’t confuse this with charm. Some good lawyers have no charm, and vice versa.
Make sure your lawyer is happy representing you. And make sure he’s getting paid.
Experience in the field is now crucial. Every field is now highly specialized. You can do a lot to find out how experienced an attorney is. First ask them directly how many cases like yours they have handled. You can ask for references in some cases, although that would be unusual because of confidentiality issues. Ask other lawyers who they think is good. The Martindale Hubbell directory does a brief check on the opinion of fellow attorneys, so you might look up that directory in the local law library. The local bar Association has a list of attorneys by field of practice. And of course ex-clients are a very good guide – if you can get referrals from your friends.
That said, some of the best, most brilliant, energetic lawyers are those with little experience, but with the confidence to start out on their own. Some very lucky clients hired Abe Lincoln when he started out.
Attorneys are officers of the court, and spend more time than any other profession studying and debating ethical issues. Because the law depends on integrity of practitioners to such a high degree, lawyers cannot practice long without principle. The greatest risk is that, in seeking to serve their clients too assiduously, they cross into a grey area, and put their licenses at risk.
If you want to be assured that your attorney is in good standing, call the Appellate Division at (718) 875-1300
Fees & Cost
You must ask the lawyer to tell you his fee for the job, or, if the work is to be billed on a per hour basis, how much he and his staff will bill per hour. In Orange County this ranges from $125 to $300 per hour, depending on experience. Get a feel for how much of the work will be done by lower cost paralegals and associates. Typically, the more the better in a good office. Ask how much he charges for copies or faxes, where you know what they cost. If it’s a very high rate you may have some questions about his hourly rate or overhead.
Set The Objectives Down
Ask them to estimate the odds of success or failure, and the range of costs anticipated. Ask them to put this in writing together with a simple goal for the representation. As the case unfolds, review this with them, and change it to fit the circumstances. Tell your attorney, “no surprises”. Ask them to copy you on all correspondence, and documents, if they don’t already do so.
The Client Bill of Rights
If the written list of your rights as a client are not displayed in his office, ask him if he subscribes to that “Clients Bill Of Rights” – you have a right to a copy
Statement of Clients’ Rights
- You are entitled to be treated with courtesy and consideration at all times by your lawyer and the other lawyers and personnel in your lawyer’s office.
- You are entitled to an attorney capable of handling your legal matter competently and diligently, in accordance with the highest standards of the profession. If you are not satisfied with how your matter is being handled, you have the right to withdraw from the attorney-client relationship at any time (court approval may be required in some matters and your attorney may have a claim against you for the value of services rendered to you up to the point of discharge).
- You are entitled to your lawyer’s independent professional judgment and undivided loyalty uncompromised by conflicts of interest.
- You are entitled to be charged a reasonable fee and to have your lawyer explain at the outset how the fee will be computed and the manner and frequency of billing. You are entitled to request and receive a written itemized bill from your attorney at reasonable intervals. You may refuse to enter into any fee arrangement that you find unsatisfactory.
- You are entitled to have your questions and concerns addressed in a prompt manner and to have your telephone calls returned promptly.
- You are entitled to be kept informed as to the status of your matter and to request and receive copies of papers. You are entitled to sufficient information to allow you to participate meaningfully in the development of your matter.
- You are entitled to have your legitimate objectives respected by your attorney, including whether or not to settle your matter (court approval of a settlement is required in some matters).
- You have the right to privacy in your dealings with your lawyer and to have your secrets and confidences preserved to the extent permitted by law.
- You are entitled to have your attorney conduct himself or herself ethically in accordance with the Code of Professional Responsibility.
- You may not be refused representation on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.