If you have never needed to do it before, then the process of hiring a lawyer is one that may seem daunting and overwhelming at first. This is especially true where you need one to help you with a highly complex situation, such as setting up your own business, handling the aftermath of a car crash, or putting together a will. By understanding what the process involves and the sequence to it all, it can make hiring a lawyer that much easier and straightforward.
Identifying the correct type of lawyer
Different lawyers specialize in various areas of the law, including the likes of civil rights, contracts, personal injury, estate, and family law. Because of this specialization, it is important that you find a lawyer that possesses experience in a particular area of law that concerns you so that you can get the best possible outcome. After all, you would not want a heart surgeon operating on your brain and vice versa.
This is why you should take the time out to do some research in order to find the correct Oklahoma SSI Lawyer to handle your case. Some of the things that you can do as part of this process include the following:
- Use a lawyer referral website or service.
- Take a look at your local and state bar associations.
- Talk with family members, friends, and even work colleagues and ask for their recommendations.
After doing each or all of these things, you should be left with a list of possible options. From here you should create a plan to meet with each of them to discuss the finer details of your case. Based on these meetings, you can then come to a decision about which of the lawyers to go with. Depending on your individual personal circumstances, you may actually be eligible for either low-cost or free legal assistance. You can check if you are eligible for this here.
Conducting an interview with a lawyer
Before you even sit down with a lawyer, you need to establish if their time is free or if you will have to pay to interview them. In most instances, these consultation meetings are completely free from charge. When interviewing a lawyer you should start off by giving a brief summary of your situation and what outcome you would like from all of it. You should also consider asking them some of, if not all, the following questions:
- How long is the case likely to take you to deal with?
- What experience do you have with similar cases?
- How much will your services for handling the case cost?
- What are the chances of getting a successful outcome?
- Will it be yourself or a colleague handling the case?
Hiring a lawyer
Once you have finished the interview process and decided on which lawyer you want to represent your case, then feel free to continue asking questions about them until you have a clear understanding of how everything works. The lawyer should also be asking you questions in order to get a better understanding of the exact details of your case. Once you have both come to a mutual understanding, it is important to then get an agreement put down in writing. From there you can discuss with them possible approaches to take for your case, what to expect, and what work is required to be done. At this point, feel free to ask them any, or all, of the following questions:
- What documentation or information do you require from me? Prior to handing any required documents or paperwork over, it is important to make copies of them for your own records.
- How often will you provide me with updates about the case?
Fees and payment arrangements
When interviewing a lawyer, you should have asked them about their fees and payment arrangements. The vast majority of lawyers charge their clients by either part of the hour or by the hours that they spend on your case. In contrast to this, some lawyers prefer to just charge a one-off flat fee for their services. This is more likely to be the case when they are doing something relatively straightforward, such as writing out a will for a client. Alternatively, there are those lawyers that earn their money by charging a contingent fee, where they get a percentage of the money that they win for their clients. Your lawyer will let you know if they will also charge you for case expenses as an additional fee to what you have already paid them. Case fees typically include things such as depositions, court filing fees, and copy documents.
It is important that you get the agreement to what the fees are and how and when you are expected to pay them to put down in writing. Each and every time that you receive a bill from your lawyer, you should review it fully in order to see exactly how the money that you are paying them is being spent. If there are any charges that you do not understand what they are for; do not be afraid to ask about those.
In some instances, a lawyer may ask you to put down a deposit prior to them doing any work on your case. This is known as a retainer. This deposit is used to pay for their fees and expenses.
By the hour
Where a lawyer charges for each and every hour that they spend working on your case, the full cost of their services does not become clear until all their work is done. The hourly rate that a lawyer charge is determined by their level of skill and their years of experience. For instance, a lawyer with decades worth of experience and in-depth knowledge of the law will likely charge more than a lawyer who only has a few years of experience under their belt. Prior to agreeing to go ahead with paying a lawyer for the individual hours that they work on your case, it is important to get an estimate written down on paper of how many hours they think that they will need to work on your case for, in order to achieve your desired outcome. Doing this provides you with a rough estimate of how much using their services is going to end up costing you.
Fixed or flat fee
When paying a fixed or flat fee, you are agreeing to pay a certain amount of dollars for their services. This is usually the case for one-off pieces of work that are relatively uncomplicated, such as writing a will, writing a contract, filing for bankruptcy, writing incorporation papers, etc. Prior to agreeing to pay for this type of service, it is important to find out from the lawyer exactly what is and what is not covered by the fee. It is also worthwhile asking them what happens if more work is needed for the piece of work that they were expecting – will you be required to pay another fee?
Contingency fee agreement
A lawyer that works on a contingency only gets paid if they win the case for you and you get paid some sort of financial compensation for it. The lawyer will take a certain, pre-agreed percentage of this. Additionally, they will also make a reimbursement payment in order to cover case expenses, such as filing fees, expert witnesses, and depositions. As part of this type of payment arrangement, the lawyer agrees to take on the risk that the outcome of the case may not be successful and, as a result, they do not get paid for all the work that they have done on it. After all, if you do not get any money, then neither do they. Depending on the exact details of the arrangement, you may still be required to pay for any case-related expenses that have been incurred even if your case is not successful. This is why it is important to know upfront exactly what the details of the arrangement are.
Where you cannot afford to pay to have a lawyer on retainer or to pay them upfront for their hourly work, then a contingency fee agreement is a more cost-effective approach. If you are considering this option, then it is important to be aware of the following things:
- There is always room to negotiate the exact amount that the lawyer is paid out of your final compensation amount.
- Some states in America place limits on the types of legal cases that can have contingency fee arrangements in place.
- The contingency fee size is dependent on the amount of work that the lawyer will need to do in order to win the case and get a successful outcome.
Because all lawyers are bound by state ethics rules, they are only allowed to charge fees for their services that are fair and reasonable for the amount of work that they do on your case and no more.
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