In the case you haven’t already, probably sometime in your own life you’ll need to hire an attorney. Thanks to my discussion with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, below is a number of answers to very common along with worthwhile questions.
1. QUESTION: Do I need to hire an attorney or lawyer in the county where the case 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 essential as that lawyer will have a comfort level with the neighborhood courthouse personnel, attorneys (likely opposing counsel) and judges. One consideration in hiring an attorney away from area in which the matter occurs is cost of travel time. Some attorneys don’t charge for travel, others give you a reduced rate or preserve a billable rate for all work performed. Talk about that question with each lawyer consulted.
2. QUESTION: How may I be sure my lawyer is handling my issues?
ANSWER: Every good attorney keeps track of his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer agreement should include a confirmation of how the attorney bills his clients – once a month, quarterly, etc. You may also track your case in some jurisidictions that provide on-line access to case dockets. If the county has that established, you’re wise to often review the docket and see what events have taken place by your counsel and the other party/counsel. It’s also advisable to feel at ease getting in contact with your attorney at intervals to determine the status of the issue, knowing you will likely be charged for these interactions.
3. QUESTION: Just how do I pick an attorney or lawyer?
ANSWER: Legal matters are as vast as those in other industries, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and are often just as perplexing. To safeguard your legal rights and remedies, the very best practice is to study your area of need and research what lawyers are available to help you. A recommendation from someone you know and admire can bring a personal element to the consideration to hire an attorney but shouldn’t be the sole reason counsel is selected. Research the attorney’s background of training, expertise and area(s) of practice. Asking important questions should be encouraged in this process. Self-help could be strengthening but can also limit or negate your recovery. Hiring a law firm should be contemplated with the same level of thought and consideration as that given to the selection of a doctor, accountant, financial specialist or therapist.
4. QUESTION: How do I know if I will need a legal professional?
ANSWER: If you have recently been served with a Summons and similar documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should endeavor to look for legal advice immediately. Documents filed in court that start a lawsuit require responses that involve exact deadlines; missing those deadlines could compromise your defense, limit or avoid your recovery. Some concerns by statute involve a “pre-suit” period of time that enable you to think about the legal issues and potential resolution before a lawsuit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer as quickly as possible is recommended.
5. QUESTION: What exactly is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the issue present at an agreed place with their counsel (if retained) and a decided on mediator to try and resolve all or a number of the issues involved. Mediators need to be unrelated to all parties and the litigation at issue, are to remain impartial in between the parties and their counsel, and continue maintaining the confidential structure of the conference to encourage settlement and resolution. Usually the parties share the fee of the mediation equally but other arrangements might be made if all parties are in agreement ahead of the conference. Mediation is usually required in every case filed in court and before a trial is held.
6. QUESTION: What type of attorney at law do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other industries, lawyers may specialise in a certain or more than one area. Similarly, law firms may specialize, offer general legal needs or offer you 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 related matters; general practitioners handle nearly all matters. Some areas of law are very technical, like bankruptcy or taxation; some are delineated by statute, as in worker’s compensation. Any lawyer should be able to discuss your particular issue, determine if he or she is prepared to take care of such matters or inform you of the necessity to consult with another in a specialized area.
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