If perhaps you have not before now, chances are that sometime in your lifetime you’ll need to employ an attorney at law. Thanks to my discussion with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, here’s a list of responses to frequent as well as important questions.
1. QUESTION: Do I want to hire an attorney or lawyer in the county where the problem occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers or attorneys practice in other jurisdictions and other states, depending on their licensure for the latter. Having knowledge in the county wherein the matter is being litigated is crucial as that attorney will have a comfort level with the county courthouse personnel, attorneys (likely opposing lawyer) and judges. One matter in retaining an attorney outside the area in which the matter takes place is cost of journey time. Some lawyers do not charge for travel, others give you a lowered rate or maintain a billable rate for all work carried out. Clarify that question with each lawyer consulted.
2. QUESTION: How will I make certain my attorney is resolving my problems?
ANSWER: Every good attorney keeps track of his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer contract should include a statement of how the attorney bills his clients – up front, quarterly, etc. You can also track your case in some jurisidictions that provide on-line accessibility to case dockets. If the county has that established, you’re wise to routinely review the docket and see what activities have occurred by your counsel and the other party/counsel. In addition feel comfortable contacting your attorney at intervals to ascertain the status of the matter, knowing you will likely be charged for these interactions.
3. QUESTION: Exactly how do I select an attorney?
ANSWER: Legal matters are as vast as those in other sectors, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and might be just as complex. To protect your legal rights and remedies, the best practice would be to investigate your area of need and research what law firms are around to work with you. A referral from someone you know and admire can bring a personal element to the plan to hire an law firm but shouldn’t be the sole reason counsel is chosen. Research the attorney’s background of training, experience and area(s) of practice. Asking a lot of questions should be urged in this process. Self-help could be empowering but may also restrict or negate your recovery. Hiring a legal professional should be considered with exactly the same degree of thought and consideration as that directed at the choice of a medical doctor, accountant, financial consultant or therapist.
4. QUESTION: How do I determine if I will need a legal professional?
ANSWER: If you have been recently served with a Summons and similar documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you really should endeavor to find legal assistance now. Papers filed in court that begin a lawsuit require responses that involve particular deadlines; skipping those deadlines could compromise your defense, limit or avoid your recovery. Some concerns by statute involve a “pre-suit” period of time that allow you to think about the legal issues and possible resolution before a suit is filed. Similarly, seeking legal counsel as quickly as possible is recommended.
5. QUESTION: What exactly is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the case present at an agreed area with their counsel (if retained) and a selected mediator to try and resolve all or a number of the problems involved. Mediators are to be unrelated to all participants and the litigation at issue, are to remain impartial between the parties and their lawyer, and maintain the confidential nature of the conference to recommend settlement and resolution. Usually the parties share the cost of the mediation equally but other arrangements may be made if all parties are in agreement in advance of the conference. Mediation is usually required in just about every case filed in court and prior to a trial is held.
6. QUESTION: What type of attorney do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other industries, attorneys may specialize in a certain or more than one area. Similarly, law firms may specialize, offer general legal needs or offer services in several unique areas of law. Trial attorneys deal with cases involving lawsuits; family law attorneys handle separation and divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and associated matters; general practitioners handle almost all matters. Some areas of law are very complex, like bankruptcy or taxation; others are delineated by statute, as in worker’s compensation. Any attorney can go over your particular issue, determine if he/she is prepared to take care of such matters or advise you of the necessity to seek advice from another in a specialised area.
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