Important things you should know when choosing an attorney.
Before purchasing a vehicle or even a refrigerator, most folks research and inspect the product before actually buying it. Unfortunately, when it comes to hiring an attorney, a negative situation (a tragic accident, bitter divorce, contract dispute, etc…) usually prompts an immediate need for finding a lawyer. The same research and “inspection” process should apply when deciding on whom to hire as your legal representative.
One of the first items to research is finding an attorney that handles your type of case. For instance, an attorney who does mostly domestic work may not be the best attorney to hire for a criminal matter. Likewise, bankruptcy is usually a special breed of attorneys. All attorneys licensed to practice law in Louisiana can technically handle any type of legal matter. However, just as you would probably not go to a family doctor if you need a surgeon, you should find an attorney whose primary area of legal practice is the type of case for which you need representation.
My practice, for example, is primarily focused on personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. That means I represent people and their families that have been injured due to the negligence of others. Sometimes that injury occurs on the job. Other times, it has nothing to do with the person’s work. Two very different types of laws apply in each of those situations. An attorney must be experienced in those types of cases and the applicable laws in order to properly represent the person. In your research, determine if the attorney routinely (not just sometimes) handles that particular type of case and how many years of experience they have in doing so.
Equally as important as the area of the law that the attorney primarily practices, the lawyer’s personality and the way he/she handles the cases should be considered. Most attorneys, including myself, have free initial consultations with potential clients. An initial free in person consultation with the attorney should be a must to even consider hiring that lawyer. That is the “inspection” process like you would be test driving a car. After the brief phone call or email setting up the initial contact, the actual initial consultation should be conducted in person so you have an opportunity to meet the attorney and the staff. The attorney should be able to listen and understand your specific needs. At that initial consultation, find out from the start if you will be actually represented by the attorney with whom you meet at the consultation, or if that firm has a practice of handing you off to another member of the firm. At Losavio Law Office, we want our clients to feel welcome and part of our extended family.
Accessibility and capability are two other areas of research you should conduct when finding the right lawyer for your case. Ask whether that attorney is actually in your area or does he/she just have a satellite office here and only visits that office occasionally. If you want to be able to actually speak face to face with the attorney you hire, having that attorney be present in your town/city is very important for accessibility. An attorney and staff who return phone calls promptly and meets with you in person reflects that law office cares about your case and wants to help you through this time of crisis.
The lawyer’s reputation in both the legal world (judges, other lawyers, etc…) and the community is another area to explore when deciding on an attorney. The State of Louisiana Bar Association can inform you if an attorney is in good standing with the State of Louisiana but that should not be the end of your inquiry. Do an online search, call family and friends and particularly anyone you know in the legal community to find out what is the reputation of that attorney. A good reputation among former or current clients of this attorney is a positive reflection of how he/she has actually handled others during their time of need.
Another important aspect to explore is what type of person is the attorney outside of the office. Does the attorney give back to society by doing any free legal work called “pro bono” or volunteer work in the community? Being a respected member of and leader in the community reflects the personal side of the lawyer and his/her investment in the community.
Ideally, the right attorney will be local and accessible to you and have the capability to aggressively represent you while also balancing your personal needs of how the case should progress. The legal process is not a pleasant experience, but having an attorney who is fighting for you every step of the way and treating you with dignity helps balance the scales of justice.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful in starting the process should you ever need a lawyer. It is important to know your legal rights so that informed decisions can be made. As time limitations do apply to every legal action, do not wait too long to discuss your issue with an attorney; otherwise, you may lose valuable legal rights. I urge anyone who has a legal issue to contact an attorney who handles that type of case and set up a free legal consultation as soon as possible.