The list of suggested questions below is intended to provide initial guidance to a person who is considering hiring a lawyer. The list is not exhaustive and there will be many questions specific to your legal matter that you should ask the lawyer. There are no "correct" answers to the questions. Rather, the answers to the questions will help you decide whether the lawyer is the right lawyer to handle your legal matter.
A lawyer is NOT required to answer the questions and the lawyer will have questions for you, as well. The decision to enter into a client-lawyer relationship is made by both the lawyer and the client. The lawyer must ask you questions so that the lawyer can also determine whether he or she is the right lawyer for you.
Background and experience:
1. What experience do you have handling legal matters like mine?
2. Do you have any special credentials in this practice area? Are you certified as a legal specialist in this practice area?
3. Do you carry malpractice insurance?
4. I would like a reference from a former client. (The lawyer cannot give you the name of a former client without the former client's consent because of the lawyer's duty of confidentiality. The lawyer may ask a former client to call you as a reference or, with the former client's consent, give you the name of the former client.)
Fees and the representation agreement:
1. Do you have a written agreement for representation that I can read beforehand?
2. How will you charge me for your services?
• Do you charge by the hour, a flat fee for a particular service, or a contingent fee (a percentage of my settlement or judgment)?
• Will you send me a bill? How frequently?
3. If you charge an hourly rate for your services, how will I be billed for portions of an hour?
• Will I be billed for email and phone calls to you or your staff?
Is an advance payment or a deposit required at the time that we agree that you will represent me? If so, will the money be held in a trust account? When will the money be paid to you for your services?
4. If I terminate the representation before the matter is resolved, what will happen to any money that I advanced that has not been spent on legal services?
5. Will I be charged for expenses or overhead and, if so, what expenses should I expect and how will you charge me for overhead?
6. If you charge a contingent fee, what services does the percentage fee cover?
Managing the relationship:
1. Will you be responsible for my matter or will it be assigned to another lawyer or a paralegal?
2. Who will be my primary contact person with the firm and what is his/her position with the firm?
3. What is the best way to communicate with you (letter, phone or email)?
4. How will you inform me of developments in my case?
5. Will I receive copies of documents, such as correspondence and anything that you file in court, throughout the representation?
6. If I call you (or email) for information, when can I expect a return phone call (or email)? Will you or a paralegal call me back?