There are many life events where you may be left wondering how do I know what type of lawyer I need? There are over 1.3 million lawyers to choose from. Choosing the right attorney is vital to the outcome of your matter.
Finding the answer to how do I know what type of lawyer I need starts with understanding what types of lawyers are available. Many lawyers are general practitioners which means they can represent you in a wide range of matters, just as many attorneys specialize in a specific field of law.
A Wide Range of Options
It is understandable why it can be hard to figure out how do I know what type of lawyer I need. There are so many different areas of law with just as many lawyers available to specialize in those areas. There are over 21 different specific areas of law.
Narrowing down your options initially may seem simple. For example, if you have a traffic violation than a criminal lawyer that specializes in traffic law would be a good choice. What if your case is a little more complex or you are dealing with a dual legal problem?
Many consumers ask the same question when it comes to how do I know what type of lawyer I need. They want to know if it is possible to have one lawyer manage all their legal needs even when they are in different specialty fields. The answer depends on which law firm you choose.
Law firms often have teams of lawyers that specialize in different areas of the law. For example, a large firm can have a family law department, a wills and trusts department, a criminal defense department, and a personal injury department.
Of course, smaller firms are not likely to offer a wide range of options, but almost all law firms will offer a range of services. Your personal needs should direct your decision about which firm is right for you.
The complexity of your matter and what type of matters you are dealing with should be the guide when you are determining which lawyer is right for you. A general attorney can handle many different matters but may recommend that you hire on a lawyer that specializes in a specific matter if the matter is overly complex. If you are a victim of medical malpractice after being admitted to the hospital, you will need a lawyer that specializes in that kind of work.
Your goal is to pick the best attorney for your case or cases that can get the best outcome. Some niche attorneys will specialize in a very narrow area of the law, and can be the best option when your case is involved in that area and highly complex.
A one size fits all attorney can be a great option when your cases are not complex. For example, you get a speeding ticket. Another example of when a general attorney is a good choice is when you have a contract dispute with a small local contractor and you have a misdemeanor charge you are fighting.
The benefits of having one attorney that does it all is that your attorney gets to know you, and you do not have to explain your situation over and over. There can also be some cost savings if you can find one lawyer that can do it all.
You should expect to pay more for a lawyer that is considered a specialist in a particular field of the law. Remember when you are choosing an attorney you are paying for their expertise, experience, and the network they have established within the court system.
Costs are typically a large concern for clients. Many lawyers will offer payment plans to help offset the cost. A payment plan can help make even the best lawyers more affordable. If you find the costs too expensive, you can ask if there is any wiggle room in the fee schedule.
When you are considering the costs, you should also consider the cost of not having the legal help that you need. It can be far more costly to not be represented.
How Do I Know What Type of Lawyer I Need?
Let’s talk about what lawyers can and cannot do before we address how do I know what type of lawyer I need. Whether you are buying a home or had to get emergency care after a car accident, you will want to have a lawyer in your corner. One of the key responsibilities of a lawyer is to act as a client advocate. In other words, a lawyer can be your champion.
A lawyer can:
- Speak on your behalf. For example, you are in dispute with your landlord, your tenant attorney can negotiate on your behalf with your landlord. Once you hire a lawyer they can do all the talking for you.
- Your lawyer can write demand letters for you. For example, you hired a general contractor that never finished the work, you have tried to contact them but have not gotten any answers. An attorney that specializes in contract law will get the contractors attention.
- Your lawyer can represent you in court. If your matter cannot be settled outside of court, your attorney can file the necessary documents with the court and represent you in court.
- Your lawyer can help you to make the right decisions. Tapping into a lawyer’s knowledge base can help you to make informed decisions.
- You may be able to get a better outcome in your matter with an expert on your side. For example, a divorce lawyer has unique experience when it comes to divorce matters that can help to ensure you get a fair outcome.
A lawyer can be your best advocate in a wide range of situations. There are some things that a lawyer cannot do, including:
- A lawyer cannot change the truth. For example, you are dealing with a family law matter, and you, have not disclosed all the things that you need to disclose to your lawyer. If you fail to be honest with your lawyer, they cannot change the truth for you if it comes up in court.
- A lawyer cannot force a judge to rule in one way or another. A lawyer can prevent evidence on your behalf, but they cannot tell the judge how to rule.
- A lawyer cannot guarantee your outcome or make decisions for you. For example, you choose an attorney that is an expert in health care law to fight on your behalf in a malpractice claim. The attorney cannot make decisions about settlements, you have the final say.
Now that you have an idea of what a lawyer can and cannot do, we can look at answering how do I know what type of lawyer I need.
Choosing the Right Lawyer
When you are hiring a lawyer, look at it as interviewing someone you want to give a job too. A lot of consumers skip out on some important steps when they are hiring a lawyer. Some consumers take more time to choose a company for apartment cleaning then they do when they choose their lawyer.
The first step in choosing a lawyer is figuring out where your situation fits in. For example, if you are having trouble with a contract for short term furnished apartments, you may be on the fence as to whether you need a tenant lawyer or you need a contract lawyer. The best way to find out is of course to ask.
Making a list of the questions that you have for a lawyer, is the best way to ensure that you are able to figure out how do I know what lawyer I need. Make appointments with lawyers that you think specialize in the field of law that your matter is relative too, then ask the questions.
A law firm will let you know right away whether they have the expertise to manage your matter or not. In most cases, a lawyer will have a referral for you if they cannot or do not handle your specific type of case.
What Should I Ask a Law Firm to Understand How Do I Know What Type of Lawyer I Need?
Before you figure out what type of lawyer is best for your situation, you have to be clear on what you hope the outcome of your situation will be. Start by making a list of the facts of your case. For example, in a family law case that involves custody, what type of arrangement are you hoping for?
Being clear on the facts of the case and being able to explain those facts to a lawyer is imperative. A lawyer will base their advice and strategy on the information that you provide. Writing down the facts in bullet point form before you meet with the lawyer can help you to convey the facts that the lawyer needs to help you get the outcome that you want.
When you are choosing a lawyer one of the most important things you can do to figure out how do I know what type of lawyer I need is to ask the right questions. A lot of people are not sure what they should be asking, here is a list of questions that can help you to get down to the facts and understand how do I know what type of lawyer I need:
- Do you have experience in these types of cases? It is important that you are hiring the right lawyer that has clocked plenty of hours in cases similar to yours. You can follow up on this question if the answer is yes by asking what percentage of cases the lawyer successfully represented in matters like yours.
- What is the fee structure? Some lawyers charge a flat-rate fee, other lawyers charge by the amount of time they work on your case. It is important that you know going into the agreement how much representation will cost. Many people prefer a flat rate fee structure.
- Ask the lawyer based on the facts that you supplied what type of strategy they can offer. Ask about potential outcomes.
Lawyers are typically very honest and upfront about whether the merits of your case can get you the outcome that you hope for. Many times a lawyer may share their opinion and it is not the most popular opinion but it is always best to hear the hard words than it is to be misled.
Can I Fire a Lawyer If I Am Not Happy With the Service?
Once you have determined how do I know what type of lawyer I need and actually hired a lawyer, you should know that if you are not happy with the services, you can break the agreement and find another lawyer. It is important that this fact is mentioned because many people falsely believe that they are stuck with the lawyer forever.
You can switch out lawyers at any point in your case but do keep in mind that this is a very serious decision and you can lose whatever ground you have gained in your case. Unless you are simply not getting the services that were agreed to, firing your lawyer should be a last resort.
If you find that you are not satisfied with the services your lawyer is providing the best way to go about finding a solution is to contact the law firm. Communication is key to getting what you need from your lawyer.
Sending an email to your lawyer is typically the best way to connect with your lawyer, it also helps to provide a paper trail of information that you provide, questions that you have asked, and of course, the attorney’s responses.
Before you jump ship and start all over again if you are not getting the responses you hoped for from your lawyer consider the following:
- What is your role in the communication breakdown? What can you do to improve the communication?
- Have you contacted the law firm, management team? Every law firm has a management team if you are not having any luck contacting your lawyer call the law firm and ask for the office manager.
- Evaluate your options carefully. For example, what would be the cost of starting over? Most disputes between lawyers and clients can end amicably with a little one on one communication.
With a little effort on your part, you will be able to figure out how to find the right kind of attorney, maintain a great relationship with your lawyer, and ultimately get a much better outcome.