- What To Consider When Choosing a Law Firm
- November 24, 2016
- Law Firm: Rhoads Sinon LLP - Harrisburg Office
At some point or another, most everyone needs to hire a lawyer, whether on an individual or company basis. It’s important to have the matter handled correctly by a professional who provides the highest caliber of legal services with accuracy, integrity and success, particularly if you have a legal issue that’s complex.
Employing the services of a qualified, experienced lawyer is invaluable in terms of helping you educate yourself in the ways of the law as well as in getting the best legal representation no matter what legal road you’re going down.
But how do you find a criminal defense law firm or a corporate attorney in Harrisburg? After all, there were a total of 1,315,561 licensed lawyers in the U.S. in 2016, according to data from the American Bar Association. Of these attorneys, 49,644 were located in the Pennsylvania area.
There were 1,315,561 licensed lawyers in the U.S. in 2016
This guide will help you to learn the right questions to ask to receive the answers you need to make a well-informed decision to hire the best attorney or Harrisburg, PA law firm to represent you or your business.
How to Find the Right Lawyer for You
Whether you’re seeking legal counsel on behalf of your company or for yourself or your family, it’s important to conduct your due diligence to find the right lawyer to represent you. Finding a good lawyer isn’t as easy as just picking one at random from the phone book or calling the one who’s most local to you. You need to consider your unique needs and match those to a law firm in Harrisburg that has experience in servicing these needs.
There were 49,644 lawyer located in the Pennsylvania Area
General Questions to Consider
Some general questions to for you to consider when selecting a lawyer, whether that’s a personal attorney or a criminal defense attorney in Harrisburg, are:
- Should I ask around for a personal referral? Finding a lawyer via speaking to friends, family members or colleagues who have already used their services for something similar to the reason you’re in need of their services for is a great idea. Ask what legal team they used and about their experience with them. It’s advisable to talk to as many people as you can who have experienced a similar legal issue to yours to obtain the best leads.
- Should I choose a specialist? By all means, find a lawyer who is a specialist in your area of concern - an employment and labor law firm in Harrisburg, for example. Be aware, though, that sometimes specialists charge a little more than a general lawyer. However, if you have a particularly involved case, their help is invaluable.
- How about using an online service? There are many websites that will connect you with a lawyer who specializes in your type of case and who practices within your local area. You can also take a look at the profiles of lawyers you’re considering to review their education and experience.
- Should I use a lawyer referral service? All lawyer referral services need to be approved by the state bar association. However, some of these referral services screen attorneys carefully, while others include a listing of all lawyers with a good standing with the state bar who maintain liability insurance.
- Should I look at peer review sites or for awards? A significant aspect of choosing a lawyer is to check peer reviews and rankings on Martindale-Hubbell, for example. If an attorney is highly ranked by their contemporaries, it’s, of course, a very good sign that they are professional and trustworthy - and that they get results. In addition, if an attorney has made a prestigious list, such as Best Lawyers® in America list or the Law Firm has made a Best Law Firms list, then it’s obviously another good sign.
Choosing the right lawyer for you or your company begins with knowing what questions are valuable to ask. Below we have compiled a list of questions to ask a prospective attorney - from finding out if they specialize in your industry to inquiring about their success rates - before you make a final decision.
Choosing the right lawyer begins with asking questions
Please note that although this information has been broken up into sections relating to both individual and company law, many of the questions and answers are relevant to all parties.
Individuals: General Common Questions You Need to Ask
Question: Can I speak with former clients if I can’t find anyone to give me a personal referral?
Answer: There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to ask for at least three names that the lawyer has provided similar legal services for. When you contact the clients, ask them all the questions you need to know, such as:
- Billing practices.
- Services they provide.
- The quality of the firm’s or attorney’s work.
- Whether the client got their desired outcome.
Question: What is the ideal outcome of my case?
Answer: Both individuals and businesses need to consider asking this question. Ask your prospective lawyers what they believe the best outcome of your case will be.
Ask your prospective lawyers what they think is the best outcome for the case
Question: Will the lawyer I hire be the person who is actually handling my case?
Answer: It’s often common practice for a law firm to have you speak with an experienced lawyer initially, who will then assign your case to a professional with less experience. If you’re planning on hiring an attorney due to their reputation and experience, you’ll want to know who will actually be personally taking on your case.
Question: Will the lawyer give me promises about the result of my case?
Answer: If your lawyer is actively guaranteeing the result of your case, take a step back. An experienced attorney will often be able to accurately predict what the outcome will be, but they should make you aware of all the possible outcomes - both positive and negative.
Question: How are your fees structured?
Answer: Most lawyers charge and bill for their time using two main methods: either a flat fee or hourly fee. Make sure to ask what the flat fee or hourly fee is, and what’s included. Ask if there are any other expenses besides billable time and if you’ll have to pay a retainer.
Question: Does the lawyer work on a contingent fee basis?
Answer: Asking this question and getting an affirmative answer ensures you don’t need to pay for a lawyer’s time unless they can make a recovery for you. This is paramount when looking for a personal injury lawyer, and you should always steer clear of firms that charge an upfront fee.
More In-Depth Questions to Ask
Some other questions you might want to ask include:
Question: Has your license ever been revoked or suspended?
Answer: This is a question that’s applicable to anyone looking for a lawyer, and asking it is incredibly vital. If you find that your lawyer has had their license revoked or suspended, you need to ask the reasons why, and if you’re not satisfied, you need to move on.
Question: Are you an active member of any associations related to your area of expertise?
Answer: Although there are many associations a lawyer can become a member of, if they’re an active participant in one, it shows they’re both interested and concerned about that said area. Perhaps the lawyer works for an organization that supports their area of interest in the community. This is a very good sign.
Question: Do you accept case referrals from other firms?
Answer: A lawyer who receives referrals from other firms is considered to be an expert in their field and an individual who gets results. If a lawyer accepts referrals, this will also show they are serious about helping their clients.
Question: How long will it take to resolve my case?
Answer: Of course, it’s impossible to predict an entirely accurate timeframe in terms of settling your case. However, your attorney should be able to give you a general idea of the length of time you can expect your case to take.
Ask your lawyer what they believe is the timeframe of your case
Question: When should I expect to receive updates on the status of my case?
Answer:The attorney should be able to explain who will be working on your case, and when, and also about how their office generally handles a case from beginning to end.
Question: Do you work with professionals and experts who can strengthen my case?
Answer: In the field of a personal injury claim that has involved traumatic injury, for example, the case will often require some expert testimony. For this reason, it’s essential the firm you choose has a positive working relationship with experts from that field.
If after asking these questions you still haven’t found a lawyer you feel comfortable in using, don’t panic. There are many and varied ways of finding the right attorney for your needs. Some of these include:
Speaking to the director of a nonprofit group that relates to the subject matter of your particular lawsuit.
Speaking to a men’s or women’s support group for some pointers in the right direction if you’re looking for a well-regarded divorce or family lawyer, for instance.
It’s important not to settle for a lawyer you don’t feel is right for you, so continue to search until you’re satisfied you’ve made the right choice.
Types of Lawyers for Individuals
The field of law can often be confusing when you’re trying to find the right person for your needs as there are multiple practice areas, including these below:
- Accidents and traffic disputes law
- Birth injuries law
- Criminal law
- Deportation law
- DUI law
- Family law
- General practice law
- Health care law
- Inheritance law
- Personal local, state, and federal income taxes
- Spousal support law
- Trusts and estates planning
- White collar criminal defense
- Wrongful death law
While some of the information you need to find out before hiring an attorney doesn’t change whether you’re an individual or a business, businesses will have some unique aspects to consider. Here are some of the necessary questions you should be asking if you’re looking for a lawyer on behalf of your business:
Question: Is it a good idea to ask for business referrals?
Answer: Asking service providers within your area of legal interest is a valuable way to help you identify a criminal defense law firm in Harrisburg that might be right for you also.
For instance, if you’re particularly interested in small business law, speaking to your accountant, real estate broker or insurance agent can be useful as these are individuals who are frequently in contact with lawyers who work on behalf of business clients.
Question: I’m not sure who else I can speak with to help me find a good lawyer for my business. What can I do?
Answer: There are many professionals you can speak to when you’re looking for a corporate attorney in Harrisburg to suit your business interests. These include:
- A law librarian who can find professionals who have written on your area of interest.
- The director of your local or state chamber of commerce.
- Other lawyers who may provide a referral.
It's natural to feel anxious about choosing a law firm.
Question: Is using a specialty lawyer worth it?
Answer: If you have a particularly complex case, you can be reassured that through using an experienced legal professional in the industry or area of law your legal situation involves, that you will end up with the most positive result for your business.
Question: Is it best to employ the services of a lawyer who’s familiar with my industry?
Answer: In short, yes. A lawyer who knows about your company’s industry in depth can provide the best legal advice. No matter what area of law you’re searching for an expert in, by asking these questions, it’s easy to find a good law firm Harrisburg-wide.
Question: Have they done this type of work before?
Answer: It’s important to always work with an attorney who has solid experience helping clients with your own specific needs to ensure you’re being given the best legal counsel possible.
Question: Are there any testimonials?
Answer: This question applies to everyone looking for the services of a lawyer, and you should be able to read the written testimonials of former clients who have both trust and confidence in the said attorney’s services.
More In-depth Questions to Ask
Some additional questions to ask include:
Question: Have you been recognized in the field I’m employing you in?
Answer:It’s likely an experienced lawyer will have handled some very difficult cases throughout their career. Often, these types of cases involve legal professionals being recognized for their significant efforts to obtain the results their clients need. If you know your lawyer has been recognized in some way, then you know they’re likely to work as hard as possible for you.
Question: Will you be able to fully account for every cent of the settlement funds?
Answer: Although you may feel uncomfortable when approaching this question, it’s one that is imperative to ask. If an attorney cannot fully account for all funds received and spent, you may have an issue on your hands.
Question: Does the law firm utilize advanced technology?
Answer: There are many attorneys who still document their cases the old fashioned way - by pen and paper. However, nowadays, it’s more secure and confidential to use state-of-the-art advanced case management systems. This way, your attorney is able to create an organized electronic chronology of your entire case.
What type of technology does a law firm use?
Question: Who is your typical client?
Answer: An often overlooked question, it’s crucial to ask this to find out whether your prospective lawyer is used to working on cases like yours and has an extensive level of relevant experience
Question: Should I employ a lawyer before I feel I have a problem?
Answer: The answer to this is yes. It can be quite common for small businesses to put off hiring an attorney until it’s too late - for example, when they’re being sued. If you’ve been served with a complaint and summons, the problem is there already. Make sure you consult with a lawyer sooner rather than later for your own peace of mind.
Types of Business Attorneys
When you’re looking for an attorney to aid you in your line of business, it’s important to be aware of their specialties. These include:
- Banking and Finance Law
- Commercial Bankruptcy Law
- Contract Law
- Construction Law
- Corporate Law
- Corporate Taxation Law
- Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
- Employee Stock Ownership Law
- Employment and Labor Law
- Environmental Law
- Financial Services Regulation Law
- Health Care Law
- Intellectual Property and Technology
- Mergers and Acquisitions Law
- Public Finance Law
Now that you’ve asked all of the pertinent questions and you’ve whittled down your choices, it’s time to narrow down your choices even further. Armed with your list of good prospects, arrange a meeting with each one to enable you to make your final informed decision.
There are various factors you need to take into consideration when meeting your prospective personal or corporate attorney in Harrisburg, including:
1. Promptness and Communication
A vital question to ask a prospective lawyer is how can you contact them, and when you do so, how long will it take to receive a reply. You don’t want to employ a lawyer who will take several days to respond to a request for help and information, as you will lose what could be very precious time, as well as feeling stressed by their lack of communications.
Pay attention to your gut feelings about the lawyers you meet. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, this is likely to continue throughout your client-lawyer relationship. For this reason, it’s important to choose a lawyer who is both experienced and who you feel you can develop a good rapport with.
Finding out a legal professional’s philosophy and approach to representing and winning a case is essential. For instance, if you’re looking for an amicable divorce, and the lawyer has a reputation of going “in for the kill” in such cases, they may not be the right fit for you.
In the case of business law, you may need a stronger lawyer who isn’t afraid of being assertive or aggressive if needed.
4. Willingness to Work With You
The lawyer client relationship should be a partnership where you’re both working toward a common goal. For this reason, you need to consult and communicate about a variety of issues throughout the case. Your lawyer should want to know your story and to understand the impact your current legal situation is having on your life.
Lawyer client relationships should be a partnership
Secure the services of a law professional who will work with you to provide you with a strong working knowledge of all the legal procedures and principles you should know so you can understand what is happening with your case.