How To Hire A Michigan Attorney
The courts of our nation have become very complex, and it can be very difficult for people to find their way through the system without special training. Even when judges are understanding, trying to represent yourself can cause undue delay in the resolution of your case, and even small procedural errors can be very damaging to the outcome of a case. In most cases, the best way to protect your rights is to hire an attorney.
The cost of an attorney can vary substantially. Some types of cases are more costly to litigate than others. For example, hiring a lawyer to fight a traffic ticket will cost a lot less than hiring a lawyer to fight a felony criminal charge. Also, different lawyers charge different rates. It is not always true that the best lawyer costs the most, but the best lawyers usually do not charge the lowest rates.
You can find the names of attorneys from a variety of sources. You may seek advice from friends, or from your doctor, accountant, or another professional. You may look in the Yellow Pages. You may contact a State Bar lawyer referral service. You may look in an on-line legal directory. There are many ways to seek a lawyer, but there are no magic answers to finding a good lawyer.
Generally speaking, television advertisements are a bad way to find an attorney. Most advertisements are paid for by referral agencies, which collect large numbers of calls and then divide them up between member attorneys. Even when the advertisements are paid for by a law firm, often many of the cases are referred out to other firms who share the enormous cost of advertising. Most of the time, the attorney with the big advertising campaign will not have an office near you. Unless your case is worth a lot of money, you may well find that you are quickly referred to a different firm or that you can't get much attention for your case.
There is something very important to remember, when it comes to hiring a personal injury attorney -- the best personal injury attorneys often do little or no advertising. They get their cases through "referrals" from other attorneys, due to their reputations for doing good work and getting good results.
If you look at the "full page" ads in the yellow pages, you will likely find that there are two types. The first type is an ad for a local attorney, who has chosen to pay for the full page. The second type is an ad for an attorney from outside the area, sometimes from the same attorney who runs the huge television ad campaigns.
Typically, the biggest ads are from "personal injury" firms, who hope that their large advertisements will bring them large numbers of injury cases. The better personal injury attorneys and firms typically do pay for full-page ads. However, as was previously noted, some of the best personal injury attorneys do little or no advertising at all. Also, there are many attorneys who buy the largest ad that they can afford, in order to make their practices appear better than they really are.
If you look through the yellow pages, you will see that most attorneys claim to specialize in "personal injury" cases - often listing several other areas in which they "specialize". Many of these attorneys have handled very few personal injury cases, and some have never had even a single personal injury case. The yellow pages can provide some degree of confirmation that a particular law firm is established, but even a bid advertisement does not certify that a firm is qualified to handle your case.
Yes. There are many specialties within the law, just as there are in medicine. There are general practitioners, who handle a wide variety of cases. There are specialists, who have developed particular skills in handing a narrow category of cases. There are also a number of attorneys who specialize in several areas. Specialties include bankruptcy, real estate, contracts, criminal defense, personal injury, appeals, workers compensation, wills and estates, and family law.
Once disciplinary proceedings against a lawyer have been resolved, the public record of any discipline should be posted for the benefit of the public on the Attorney Discipline Board website. Please note that minor disciplinary actions against a lawyer may not be reflected in the public record.
No. Before your meeting, you should ask if there is a fee for an initial consultation. You will be obligated to pay that fee, even if you do not hire the attorney. However, even if the consultation is free, you have every right to take some time to think before you hire the attorney, and you have every right to decide not to hire the attorney. Hiring an attorney is a big step, and there is nothing wrong with shopping around.
The questions you should ask will vary with your case. Consider the following list to be a starting point:
Please note that, as desirable as references may be, it is not always possible for attorneys to give references from past clients due to attorney-client confidentiality. However, you may wish to ask for references from other attorneys.
It may feel awkward to ask a lawyer the questions on this list, and you may find that some aren't relevant to your situation or hiring decision. The list above should be taken as a starting point - you should feel free to refashion the questions above, or to add or subtract questions to improve relevancy. You shouldn't feel awkward about asking tough questions when meeting a lawyer - they can handle it.
Yes. A written retainer agreement is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected. Don't feel that you have to sign the agreement on the spot - take the time to read it first, and ask questions about it. If you are looking at paying thousands of dollars in fees, you may even wish to have the agreement reviewed by another attorney before signing it. The retainer agreement should accurately describe the legal issues for which the attorney will represent you, the amount that you will pay the attorney, and any other terms you discuss.
The attorney works for you. You have the right to terminate your relationship with an attorney. Please note, however, that you must still pay the attorney for the services he has performed for you. If the attorney was representing you on a "contingent fee" basis, the attorney may be entitled to a portion of the proceeds of your case.
Usually, before you fire your attorney, you will want to first talk to a different attorney. Sometimes the new attorney will tell you to try to work out your problems with your attorney. If you choose to hire the new attorney, the new attorney should be willing to work out the details relating to any fees you may owe to your prior attorney.
If I get involved in another legal case, or if I want to appeal my case, does my attorney have to represent me?
Generally not, unless your retainer agreement requires your attorney to take on the additional matter. Your attorney will ordinarily only have to represent you on the matters specified in your retainer agreement, and has every right to charge an additional fee if new cases arise. Once a final judgment has been entered, your attorney ordinarily has no further responsibility to represent you or to appeal your case.
In the event that a dispute arises between you and your attorney, some bar associations offer dispute resolution services for member attorneys. These services can be of particular benefit in the event of fee disputes. If you feel that your attorney has acted in an unethical manner, Michigan has a "grievance" procedure where you can file a complaint against your attorney through the Attorney Grievance Commission and have your complaint investigated.
The information contained in this web site is provided as a public service. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not legal advice or legal representation and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the law, we make no warranty or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of information contained herein or at other sites to which we link. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific facts and circumstances of your case, information cannot substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.
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Mr. Larson does not seek clients from outside of the state of Michigan. If you require legal advice, please contact an attorney licensed to practice in your state. We will be happy to assist you, if possible.
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