Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Q. Based on my situation, do I have a case?

A. Make sure you fully explain your situation to your lawyer.  Bring any papers or documents you think may help explain the story to the initial consultation.  Make sure your lawyer covers both practical solutions to the problems as well as options available under the law.  Do not try to convince the lawyer of the merits of your position by exaggerating the facts.  If you know, make sure you tell the lawyer the position taken by the potential adverse party.  Be sure to tell the lawyer the complete truth so that he or she can best advise you.

Q. How long will it take to resolve my legal problem?

A. The answer will vary depending upon the particular circumstances of your case.  However, the lawyer and client should agree on what expectations each has such as settlement, mediation or trial, and how the lawyer will try to obtain those expectations. The client has a right to expect a status report of the case.

Q. How much will it cost?

A. Once you have decided which lawyer to call, you should ask the lawyer whether he/she charges a fee for the initial consultation (first visit), and if so, how much.  Please understand that depending on the practice area, a lawyer may charge a reasonable fee for a consultation.  Whether a lawyer will charge a fee for the consultation varies based on practice area and the amount of time spent with a potential client during the initial consultation.

If you decide after the first meeting that you want to hire the lawyer to represent you in the legal matter, you may ask for an estimated cost for services.  Many lawyers will enter into a written agreement listing the fees, costs and the nature and extent of the lawyer's representation.  Costs are different from fees and in civil cases include such items as filing fees, costs for a sheriff or process server to serve process in your case, copies and mediator fees.  Always remember that the client is ultimately responsible for court costs, filing fees, etc.

The lawyer should be able to give you some idea of the legal fees as well as costs (expenses for the action) associated with the legal matter for which he/she is agreeing to represent you. Whether you, as the client, will be charged on an hourly basis or a contingent fee basis, the reason for the fee should be fully explained to you. Before actually agreeing that the lawyer will represent you, feel free to get an explanation of the fee in writing from the lawyer and signed by both of you.

See the definitions below for fees:

  • Retainer fee: Advance payment to the lawyer for a portion of his or her fee.
  • Contingency Fee: An agreed-upon percentage of any monies obtained through settlement, trial or negotiation.
  • Hourly fee: The lawyer's hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours (or portion of hours) spent on your case.
  • Fixed of Flat fee: A specific amount of money for a specific service.
  • Cost advance: Periodic advance payment to the lawyer for on-going expenses associated with litigation.
  • Mixed fee: Combination of contingency and hourly fees.

Q. Are you the lawyer who can help?

A. It is important to discuss with the lawyer how much experience he/she has in dealing with cases similar to yours.  If the lawyer doubts his or her competence to handle the matter then be sure to ask for a referral to other lawyers who are familiar with cases such as yours.  Also ask about the outcome of the other cases that the lawyer has handled, as well as whether or not the anticipated fees and costs that you have been quoted by the lawyer is in line with the fees and costs charged in the other cases.