If perhaps you haven’t already, chances are that sometime in your own life you’ll have to hire a lawyer. Thanks to my interview with Tampa Lawyer Christina Mesa, this is a selection of responses to frequent along with worthwhile questions.
1. QUESTION: Do I need to hire an attorney at law in the county where the problem occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers practice in other jurisdictions and other states, based on their licensure for the latter. Having knowledge in the county in which the matter will be litigated is important as that attorney will have a level of comfort with the local courthouse personnel, lawyers (likely opposing counsel) and judges. One thing to consider in hiring an attorney away from area wherein the matter takes place is cost of travel time. Some attorneys don’t charge for travel, others offer a decreased rate or preserve a billable rate for all work performed. Talk about that question with each lawyer consulted.
2. QUESTION: How can I make certain my attorney is handling my problems?
ANSWER: Every good attorney monitors his time (fees) and expenditures (costs). Your retainer contract should include a confirmation of how the lawyer bills his clients – once a month, quarterly, etc. You may also keep track of your case in some jurisidictions that provide on-line accessibility to case dockets. If the county has that available, you’re wise to periodically review the docket and see what events have occurred by your attorney and the other party/counsel. It’s also advisable to feel comfortable getting in touch with your lawyer at intervals to ascertain the status of the issue, understanding you will likely be billed for these communications.
3. QUESTION: Exactly how do I pick an attorney?
ANSWER: Legal matters are as vast as those in other industries, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and may be just as complex. To protect your rights and remedies, the very best practice would be to study your area of need and research what legal professionals are out there to assist you. A referral from someone you know and respect can bring a personal element to the decision to hire an attorney but shouldn’t be the sole reason counsel is picked. Look into the lawyer’s background of education, expertise and area(s) of practice. Asking questions should be encouraged in this process. Self-help could be strengthening but can also limit or negate your recovery. Hiring a lawyer should be contemplated with the exact same degree of thought and consideration as that given to the pick of a medical doctor, accountant, financial advisor or therapist.
4. QUESTION: How do I know if I require a lawyer or attorney?
ANSWER: If you have recently been served with a Summons and similar documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you really should endeavor to look for legal guidance now. Documents filed in court that start a lawsuit require responses that involve particular deadlines; missing out on those deadlines could compromise your defense, reduce or avoid your recovery. Some concerns by statute involve a “pre-suit” time period that enable you to take into account the legal issues and probable resolution before a suit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer immediately is advised.
5. QUESTION: Precisely what is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the issue present at an agreed site with their counsel (if retained) and a chosen mediator to try and resolve all or some of the concerns involved. Mediators are to be unrelated to all parties and the litigation at issue, are to remain impartial amongst the parties and their lawyer, and continue maintaining the confidential nature of the conference to recommend settlement and resolution. Usually the parties share the charge of the mediation equally but other arrangements can be made if all parties are in agreement in advance of the conference. Mediation is usually required in every case filed in court and just before a trial is held.
6. QUESTION: What kind of lawyer do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other businesses, lawyers may specialize in a certain or more than one area. Similarly, law firms may specialize, provide general legal needs or offer services in a few specific areas of law. Trial lawyers handle cases involving lawsuits; family law lawyers handle separation and divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and related matters; general practitioners handle most matters. Some areas of law are very specialized, like bankruptcy or taxation; some are delineated by statute, like worker’s compensation. Any attorney can go over your specific issue, determine if he/she is qualified to handle such matters or inform you of the necessity to speak with another in a specialized area.
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