Choosing a lawyer can be stressful, especially if you are doing it to take care of a life-changing event like your divorce, your bankruptcy, the dissolution of your partnership, or a criminal matter. But what about those times when you need a lawyer for a small issue, like to prepare a simple contract, argue a traffic ticket, or handle a landlord/tenant issue? Should you be any less choosy simply because your issues are somewhat minor? Here are five ways to choose a lawyer for your not-so-monumental legal events.
- Pick the Guy You Would Call If the Matter Blew Up on You. First and foremost, even in small matters, choose the attorney who you would want to represent you if the proverbial poo hit the fan. In any legal matter, events can quickly and, without warning, take an unexpected turn for the worse. Your uncontested divorce can turn hostile. Your minor traffic violation could become more serious if you had another such violation right on its heels. The tenant you wanted to evict because he wasn’t paying his rent could burn down the property in retaliation. The judge who you just knew would see your side of the argument could have a sick day.
You never know what’s going to happen when you go to court. So choose a lawyer with whom you’d be comfortable even if things went south.
- Interview More Than One Attorney. Even in a simple matter, it’s important that you interview several attorneys so that you can choose the one who best fits your issues, your personality, and your price point. If you choose a lawyer whom it turns out you just can’t stand, or who doesn’t understand your perspective, your experience will be far from pleasant, regardless of the opposition.
- Hire Someone Who Specializes in Your Issue. There are many attorneys in town who specialize in simpler matters. Find the attorney who spends all day every day representing people with your type of problem. If you hire the best divorce attorney in town for your DUI, she may have to learn this new area by practicing on you. This will cost you more money, and it may open you up to damaging mistakes.
- Consider the Expense. If you end up paying more in legal fees than you win in your trivial matter, then it’s not really a win, is it? Hire an attorney whose payment structure makes sense for your matter, and make sure you understand your financial responsibilities to the attorney before you sign the retainer agreement.
- If You Need a Trial Attorney, Hire One. If You Need a Peacemaker, Hire That Type of Attorney Instead. Most laypeople don’t understand that many legal issues can be solved less expensively and less stressfully out-of-court. That being said, there are certain types of issues that need to be litigated, or for which you at least need your attorney to have the reputation as a litigator. Find out what you need, and hire that type of attorney.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be sure to choose the right attorney for your minor legal matter.
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About this week’s author Joryn Jenkins.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.