In the instance that you haven’t previously, chances are that sometime in your own lifetime you’ll need to retain a lawyer. Thanks to my interview with Tampa Lawyer Christina Mesa, here’s a listing of responses to basic and imperative 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, based on their licensure for the latter. Having knowledge in the county wherein the matter is being litigated is essential 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 a lawyer outside the area wherein the matter occurs is cost of travel time. Some attorneys do not charge for travel, others give you a reduced rate or maintain a billable rate for all work conducted. Clarify that question with each attorney consulted.
2. QUESTION: How may I make sure my attorney is working on my problems?
ANSWER: Every good attorney keeps track of his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer contract should include a affirmation of how the lawyer bills his clients – month-to-month, quarterly, etc. You can 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 periodically review the docket and see what activities have occurred by your lawyer and the other party/counsel. You should also feel comfortable getting in touch with your lawyer at intervals to learn the status of the matter, understanding you’ll likely be charged for these interactions.
3. QUESTION: Precisely how do I pick an attorney or lawyer?
ANSWER: Legal difficulties are as vast as those in other industries, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and are generally just as complex. To protect your rights and remedies, the ideal practice would be to study your area of need and research what attorneys are out there to assist you. A recommendation from somebody you know and admire can bring a personal element to the plan to hire an lawyer but really should not be the singular reason counsel is picked. Look into the attorney’s background of education, practical experience and area(s) of practice. Asking basic questions should be encouraged in this process. Self-help can be empowering but can also limit or negate your recovery. Hiring a legal professional should be contemplated with the same degree of thought and consideration as that directed at the choice of a medical professional, accountant, financial advisor or therapist.
4. QUESTION: How do I determine if I require a legal professional?
ANSWER: If you have recently been served with a Summons and associated documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should endeavor to look for legal guidance immediately. Papers filed in court that begin a lawsuit call for responses that involve particular deadlines; missing those deadlines could damage your defense, reduce or avoid your recovery. Some issues by statute involve a “pre-suit” period of time that enable you to take into account the legal issues and probable resolution before a lawsuit is filed. Similarly, seeking legal counsel as quickly as possible is recommended.
5. QUESTION: Precisely what is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the case present at an agreed location with their counsel (if retained) and a decided on mediator to try and solve all or a number of the concerns 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 nature of the conference to inspire settlement and resolution. Usually the parties share the charge of the mediation evenly but other arrangements can be made if all parties are in agreement ahead of the conference. Mediation is typically required in just about every case filed in court and before a trial is held.
6. QUESTION: What kind of attorney do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other businesses, lawyers may specialize in a certain or more than one area. Similarly, law offices may specialize, provide general legal needs or provide services in a few precise areas of law. Trial attorneys handle cases involving lawsuits; family law attorneys handle divorce cases, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and associated matters; general practitioners handle most matters. Some areas of law are extremely technical, like bankruptcy or taxation; some are delineated by statute, such as worker’s compensation. Any attorney can talk about your particular issue, determine if he/she is prepared to take care of such matters or advise you of the need to speak with another in a specialized area.
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