WHY CHOOSE USChoosing an Attorney

As with most things in life, the best way to start is to get a recommendation from someone you trust, whether it is a family member, friend, or other professional, such as your accountant. You should get more than one name. You should also try to find an attorney who is familiar with the type of law you need.

If you do not know of anyone who has used the type of lawyer you are looking for, you can contact the local bar association. You can also go to sites such as www.findlaw.comwww.martindale.com and www.lawyers.com. Be aware that with most web sites, attorneys pay to be there. While that should not be a disqualifying factor, it is something we believe you should be aware of.

Interviewing Attorneys

Once you have the name or names, meet with the lawyer. Be prepared to ask questions regarding both your particular matter and the lawyer’s practice. We recommend you ask are:

  1. how many similar matters has the attorney handled;
  2. what happened in those cases;
  3. how will this case be handled;
  4. how would other lawyers handle the case;
  5. based on experience, what can be expected;
  6. which lawyer in the firm will be working on the matter; and
  7. will there be any limitations on the scope of the representation.
  8. what time frame should I expect for my case.

You are interviewing this person for something very important. You have to be very comfortable with your lawyer because you are going to need to trust that person. Your situation may require you to reveal things that you would not tell others (such as mistakes you made in a business transaction).

Keep in mind that a lawyer sells time for a living, so you may be charged for this consultation. This is not so much because lawyers are always trying to make money, but because many potential clients are simply trying to receive free legal advice.

Legal Fees

Lawyers generally charge in one of three ways for their services, hourly, flat fee, or contingency (percentage). Not every type is permitted for every legal situation. For personal injury cases, most lawyers charge a percentage of the recovery. For certain business transactions, such as incorporation, most lawyers will charge a flat fee. For most other matters, lawyers charge hourly. You need to understand how the lawyer will charge you, both in terms of the minimum billing increments, as well as additional expenses. There is an extremely wide range of hourly rates, from $100 to $1,000 per hour. Be mindful that some lawyers may have a lower hourly rate, but they may take longer to do the work. Some base their rates on the prestige of their firm, while some lawyers choose smaller firms because they want to keep their rates lower. You get what you pay for, but don’t overpay for what you get.

Once you have selected your lawyer, you will enter into a fee agreement. This is something all lawyers are required to provide you and have you sign. This agreement protects both you and the lawyer. It is supposed to spell out precisely what you are (and, in some cases, are not) hiring the lawyer to do, as well as your obligations to pay the lawyer and under what circumstances the lawyer can terminate the relationship (you always have the right to terminate the relationship). If you do not understand something in the engagement letter, be proactive. Ask questions. While your lawyer is your advocate, he or she cannot read your mind.

Fee Structure

There are also questions you should ask, depending on the type of fee structure. If the engagement is on an hourly fee basis, you will want to know: (1) the hourly rate; (2) what are the minimum billing increments; (3) whether there is a charge for every phone call, letter, or email; (4) an estimate of the number of hours the case will take (although this question can be very difficult to answer); (5) what additional expenses might be required; and (6) what happens if the case takes longer than anticipated.
If the engagement is for a flat fee, you will want to know: (1) how much time do these types of matters typically take; (2) what additional expenses are typically required; and (3) what happens if the matter takes significantly less/more time.

If the engagement is on a contingency, you will want to know: (1) the likelihood of recovery (remember, there are no guarantees in the law); (2) an estimate of the recovery (same warning); (3) what percentage is being charged; (4) what percentage most lawyers in town charge for the same type of case; (5) what additional expenses might be required; and (6) what happens if the case settles immediately.

Once the relationship has commenced, you need to remain proactive to ensure your lawyer continues to handle your matter properly. Ask your lawyer to provide you with copies of everything that goes out relating to your case (the cost of the copies may be passed on to you). We find that providing too much information is better than not providing enough, we would much rather have a client tell us to stop sending things than the opposite.

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Bovarnick and Associates, LLC

Creative, practical problem solving,
to protect you and increase your success.

P 215.568.4480 F 215.568.4462
One South Broad Street, Suite 1600
Philadelphia, PA 19107
rmb@bovarnick.com

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