Most of our clients are surprised to find out how closely we work with them. Building a deep understanding of your needs, and knowledge of your situation is the most effective way to pursue a lawsuit. In the same way, you should gain a good sense of an attorney’s experience and personality before hiring them. Knowledge works both ways.
Even within the field of personal injury law, no two cases will be fought alike. As circumstances change, your attorney will have to tailor their legal strategy to confront unique challenges. Experience, intelligence, and forethought are all necessary characteristics if you want a successful outcome.
8 Questions For An Attorney In NYC
Does the attorney you’re considering have what it takes? Use this guide to conduct an informal interview and find out.
1. Where Are You Admitted To Practice?
Every state administers its own “bar examination,” which determines whether a lawyer is competent and informed enough to practice law in that state. While a lot of laws apply to all states universally, many of the statutes that come into play during a personal injury case are state-specific. Bar exams make sure that attorneys are accurately apprised of state law, in addition to federal.
If you’re accident occurred in New York State, it’s almost certain that your case will be tried in the courts of New York. If the attorney you’re speaking with hasn’t been admitted to New York’s state bar, they won’t be able to try your case.
2. Have You Tried Cases Like Mine Before?
Just like every other industry, the legal profession has become increasingly specialized over the years. For clients, this is a good thing. American and New York State laws are intensely complex, and it would be impossible for one practitioner to cover all the bases.
Personal injury law itself can be divided into many categories: slip and fall (premises liability), product liability, car accidents, etc. Does the lawyer you’re interviewing have substantial experience in the field under which your case would fall?
3. How Long Have You Been Working In This Practice Area?
Again, experience means a lot in the legal profession.
4. What’s Your Track Record?
Remember to specify your questions, modifying them to fit your case. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident, ask how many premises liability cases the attorney has handled.
- How many actually went to trial?
- How many that went to trial did you win?
- How many settled?
It should be fairly obvious at this point whether or not the lawyer you’re talking to has learned from their experiences in the field.
5. Will You Prepare My Case For Trial?
Most cases settle out of court, before going to trial. But that doesn’t mean that a lawyer should prepare for a quick resolution. Your lawyer’s investigations, research, and thought will all be more comprehensive if they prepare your case for trial from the start. In the end, that’s often the difference between a discounted settlement and a top-dollar jury verdict.
6. Do You Have The Time To Start On My Case Now?
Personal injury lawyers, in general, are busy people. The last thing you want is to sign a contract and then be left on the back burner. Ask about their current case load, and personnel resources. Ask for a percentage of time that the attorney would be willing to devote to your case.
7. What Will Our Relationship Be Like?
Many injured plaintiffs expect their lawyer to take over once the contract has signed. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The best personal injury attorneys know that teamwork makes or breaks a case. Some lawyers want their clients to be hands-off, others don’t. If you’re truly committed to your case, that might be a problem.
Ask the attorney what your role will be once the case is underway.
8. How Will Payment Work?
Almost every personal injury lawyer works on a “contingency-fee basis,” which means you won’t pay any attorney’s fees unless they recover for you. But attorney’s fees are only one part of the financial resources needed to bring a case to conclusion. You might still be on the hook for case expenses, money paid to expert witnesses, charges for the release of medical records, filing fees, and all the other things that keep an investigation running.
Law firms handle these expenses in different ways. Some require clients to pay on an on-going basis, while others take expenses out of the recovery at the end. Ask how these additional expenses will be handled.
Now that you have a sense of your potential attorney’s experience and dedication, consider contacting other lawyers and asking the same questions. How do they match up? If you think you’ve found the right one, keep the line open for further communication. You need to feel comfortable with your choice, a big part of that is simply knowing that your lawyer pays attention.