In Part 1 of this blog, Selecting the Right Attorney for your Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case the initial steps for building a list of prospective attorneys and legal firms that may be right for your need were discussed.
Now that you have completed a list of possible law firms based upon your initial research, picking up the phone and contacting them is your next step.
You’re initial phone conversation can provide useful insights. Does the attorney seem distracted or in a hurry just to schedule an appointment without taking any time to speak with you first? If they can’t take the time to talk with you on the phone, they are probably going to be one of those attorneys who will not have time to give attention to your case or return your phone calls later when you want the status of your case.
If the attorney seems knowledgeable, caring, and willing to answer your preliminary questions, then request an initial consultation.
Most firms offer an initial consultation in personal injury matters at no charge to you, so feel free to meet with more than one firm if you are unsure of the fit after the initial consultation. In that initial meeting, question the attorney about his or her background and experience in the kind of injury claim you have. Find out if the attorney specializes in that area of law.
Make sure that you ask about the attorney’s trial experience, because you want to make sure you hire someone who is willing and able to take your case to trial if settlement negotiations are unsuccessful. Not all attorneys have the courage, work ethic, and risk tolerance to actually take a case to trial when necessary.
Is the attorney articulate, professional appearing and likeable? If not, why would a jury want to listen to what the attorney has to say on your behalf?
Lastly, once you are satisfied that you have found a skilled, honest and caring professional to handle your claim, make sure that you understand the fee agreement. Most attorneys offer a contingency fee of 1/3 of the gross settlement recovered and will charge no attorneys fee at all if they are not able to obtain a settlement or favorable jury verdict for you. That fee can be higher if an appeal of your case is required or the case involves unusual complications or risk. However, attorneys fees are separate from out-of-pocket costs, which you often can be exposed to if your case is not successful.
Make sure you understand the retainer agreement and the difference between fees and costs before signing on to the firm, and never let an attorney pressure you into signing a contract to handle your claim until you are personally satisfied that he or she is the right person for the job. If your “gut instinct” tells you that something is not quite right about the attorney or he or she seems to be only willing to tell you what you want to hear, or God forbid, giving you “guarantees” about your claim, rather than honest and candid advice about your particular situation, listen to that gut feeling and move on in the attorney selection process.