How does a person or company know how to pick an attorney? Once you’ve found a prospective attorney, there are (at least) five key questions to ask:
1. How much experience do you have handling cases like mine?
Ask your intended attorney not only if he or she has handled cases like yours, but for how long, how recently have they handled similar cases, and just how similar were they? Also, ask how far they have taken a similar case—have they taken one to trial? Defended the case on appeal? Which jurisdiction was the case or cases they had that were similar? How long ago? Do they have any cases pending which are similar to yours? If so, how did those cases resolve? What were the important factors towards the case’s resolution?
2. Just how will you handle my case?
Find out if the attorney has a specific plan for your case—not just the typical litigation framework of serving the complaint or answering the complaint, issuing written discovery and taking certain depositions, posturing the case for the best settlement or trial, if necessary. Ask specifically what the attorney thinks are the key issues involved in your case, what is the key evidence to procure to determine those issues and what is the likelihood of the issues coming out favorably for our case? What is the best method to explore those key facts? How likely is it to be able to get answers to the case’s unknown questions?
3. How much will this lawsuit cost?
If the attorney has experience handling cases similar to yours, he or she should have a precise idea of how much the case will cost. Ask specifically where those costs will be expended and who is responsible for them. How much are the filing fees? What do you expect to incur for witness and deposition fees? What are the other court costs that may be anticipated? Will the case require experts and, if so, why type and how much will those cost? Get an estimated total of the case’s potential expenses and costs.
4. Just how long will my case take to resolve?
An experienced counsel will have a fairly accurate estimate of the duration of the case. What kinds of cases are resolved quickly, and is mine one of those? How long does a case similar to mine take to end? How long have similar cases taken? What are the factors that will help to determine how long the case will take to resolve? What can be done to get the case resolved faster?
5. What’s going to happen to my case in the end?
The question most needing an answer is just what will happen to my case. Of course, no attorney will make any guarantees, and assurances should be received cautiously; however, a lawyer experienced with cases like yours should have a fairly good sense of how your case will resolve. What is my case ultimately worth? Or, conversely, can we defeat the plaintiff’s claims? What are the factors that determine how much the case is worth and who makes that decision? What is that decision based on?
Asking your attorney these 5 questions will not only help you select a lawyer, but will keep you engaged and empowered throughout your litigation.