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How to choose the right lawyer ?

During our life we sometimes need a lawyer. If some of us know personally one and will of course seek his help, for most of us the search often starts by asking our relatives if they can recommend a legal professional, either because they are used to the legal field or because they know one themselves. In the last years, more and more persons are now searching their lawyer online, without asking first for recommendations.

Whatever the method used, it is still key to properly choose your lawyer and not to limit yourself at the first name you get. To guide you in this choice, here is a list of advices.

1. The field of expertise

Even if in theory, all lawyers can deal with any type of cases based on their studies and experience, most lawyers specialize and develop a deeper expertise in a limited number of areas. These areas are called their fields of expertise. In general, choosing a lawyer based on this element grants you a good level of expertise and a better guidance all along your case. Be careful then if your best friend recommends the lawyer he hired for his divorce: this professional might not be the best used to litigations with an employer, and might be less efficient in this field. It is also possible that in such a case, the lawyer directly recommends another peer.

2. Spoken languages

Nowadays a lots of persons know how to make themselves understood in english and a large majority has an easy access to online translators, so we often consider that the language is not an issue. Actually, it is a key point as being understood will be essential so the professional you choose can defend your interests at her best. Think about the fact that she is going to explain procedures and possible options, establish a strategy, or ask you to deeply detail some points of your case. You will then often use a specific vocabulary, legal or technical, that you and your lawyer need to master. With the language also comes a cultural aspect, that might have a key role in some cases, such as defamation cases. In some cultures, some behaviors or words will be way more offending than others. Your lawyer must then need to be able to understand its scope. Consequently, preferably prefer your mother tongue or a language that you sufficiently master, and if possible, make sure that it is also the case for the professional you will choose.

3. The experience

We are here refering to experience with the widest meaning, which is the number of years the lawyers performed their activities, that is also often related to their age. A lawyer more experienced is more likely to provide advices based on what he lived and what he is used to. It often allows for a better guidance in your file, giving you more detailed information about risks and potential consequences of one procedure or the other. A lawyer with several years of performing her job is also more used to the courts and how it works. We can note that a lawyer more experienced can benefit from some precedence benefits, such as pleading the case before his younger peers. However, we underline the fact that more experienced lawyers are often more expensive. Lawyers who took their oath more recently, following their studies, might offer the advantage of fresher theoretical knowledge as well as interests often more developed regarding new trends and technologies. We generally think that you should consider the experience depending on your goal: the more you will use complex procedures, deal with very specific topics or want to have a very deep and detailed guidance regarding advising and strategy, the more you should consider an experienced lawyer. On the contrary, if you want a more open approach on some new trends or technologies, or more theoretical information, a lawyer that recently started her activities might be better placed to answer you. Still, keep in mind that when it comes to experience, it is very difficult to make general statements and it is very easy to believe in stereotypes. A first discussion with the chosen lawyer will confirm better than anything else that her experience matches your needs.

4. Prices

Two elements have to be considered regarding prices: the invoicing system and the prices themselves. Regarding the invoicing system, each lawyer has his own approach, but we often find two options: an hourly rate or a fixed-price. Charging you an hourly rate has the benefit to make you only pay for the time actually being spent and performed by your lawyer. The bad side is that you cannot now in advance the final amount to be charged. The fixed-price is an amount that you agree with your lawyer prior to her work. Whatever the actual time spent on your case, you will have to pay the agreed sum. This method is a good way to control your expenses, but if the lawyer is able to provide the work within a more limited time frame, you will not be allowed to reduce the amount to pay. Regarding the price itself, it is up to you and your lawyer to decide and to negotiate if needed, whatever the invoicing system is. The lawyer decides the price according to different criteria, which include your personal and financial situation. So be clear about this topic and talk about it to your chosen professional. Also keep in mind that the more experienced and specialised your lawyer will be, the more likely his price will be high. The price can also be higher when your case needs very complex or difficult searches or procedures. However, even if we often hear that legal actions are expensive, most of the people overestimate them. Do not hesitate to request information then. Many people give up even the simple fact to contact a lawyer, assuming they will have to pay too much, while some lawyers offer very attractive fixed-prices or first appointments for free.

5. The availability

It is a point that many people tend to neglect or forget during their search. Still, in many cases, the permanent availability of a lawyer will be one of the first reasons that the client recommending him will state. It is always very useful to check when and how you can contact a lawyer. If your case is an important source of stress for you daily, it is better to go for a professional often available, able to answer you regularly and if possible by phone. If you have yourself some very precise time constraints, choose a lawyer that will be available at the same time than you do, or think about the way you are going to communicate.

6. The proximity

It means here the fact to be geographically nearby. Even if nowadays, many discussions are done by email or by phone, in a majority of cases you will have to go at least once to the law firm of your lawyer, for example just to provide original documentation, explain her a situation or simply meet her before mandating her. To choose a lawyer whom law firm is easily accessible is then strongly recommended. It does not mean you need to choose the professional based in your street, but rather the one that is the simpler to access. Consider also the availability: if your lawyer has the same working hours than yourself, it might be more appropriate to choose one close to your working place. If you and your lawyer can meet the weekend, a lawyer close to your home is then probably simpler. In the same way, if you use public transport, a law firm that you can access by bus is probably the best for you. In all cases, make sure you can simply and quickly go to the law firm of your lawyer if needed.

7. Recommendations

We often start the search using this criteria: who is recommending us which lawyer? Actually, you have different criteria that tou can use, as explained in this article, and recommendations are just one amongst others. In general though, it is more relevant to use this criteria to confirm our initial choice or to choose between two professionals. Also keep in mind that each recommendation does not have the same value: each of us will make a recommendation based on our own experience and our own criteria. Think about asking the the reasons why someone recommends a specific lawyer. Is she recommended for her experience, her price, her availability, or all of these at the same time? Always analyze the recommendation based on your own critera. A lawyer recommended by many people does not mean she is the best. A large number of recommendations may simply mean that the lawyer is dealing with a large number of cases. If you are looking for a more dedicated lawyer or a VIP feeling, you might consider a lawyer with a smaller number of recommendations.

8. The law firm

Some people choose the lawyer, others the law firm. If both ways are fine, keep in mind that all the other criteria discussed in this article remain applicable, also because it is always a specific lawyer that will deal with your case even if you appoint a law firm. The law firm remains then a criteria that can influence your choice. Taking a renowned law firm, with an internal or european dimension, is very useful when your case or your needs include elements in different countries. You will benefit from the knowledge of lawyers working abroad in one of the law firm's subsidiaries. This leads often to more expensive prices. It is worth mentionning that some law firms also have what we call "pro bono" programs, which consist in working on cases for free or almost for free, most of the time for people in really difficult financial situation or for cases meeting some very precise criteria. If you have absolutely no ressource, check the opportunities that such programs offer. In the same time, the larger law firms need more clients, making them close to traditional service providers. Choosing a smaller structure ensures most of the time a more personal follow-up, closer to you. We shall not take general conclusions out of this of course, and the best approach remains to take information upfront or obtain a first discussion to make your own conclusion. Do not hesitate to ask if the lawyer will deal directly herself with your case or if associates will perform the work. If it is rather associates, you can ask their names to know about their skills and experience.

Many other criteria can be taken into consideration to choose your lawyer. We mentioned here only the main ones that are often used. In all cases, and even if someone trustworthy recommends a lawyer to you, we always think it is better to carefully consider the criteria that are important to you. A lawyer is here to help you with topics that are often vital to you, or events that are key in your life. Consequently it is essential to choose the right professional. It is all the easier because today, a company like Legal Finder guides you in your search, allows you to provide and search based on these criteria, and finds the most relevant professional for you. And all of this for free.

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