All attorneys are NOT the same. Don’t be afraid to ask to see your attorney’s resume. If at all possible get a referral from a satisfied friend. Talk to the prospective attorney on the phone before you go in. If you don’t feel good about the conversation, trust your instincts.
Whether you are looking for an estate planning, probate or bankruptcy attorney, you want someone you feel comfortable with and who has a resume that makes you feel he or she is knowledgeable in their field of practice. If you think the attorney is impatient, arrogant or judgmental, go to someone else.
Many people check the web and some find a lawyer in publications. In the old days, about 30 years ago, lawyers were not permitted to advertise according to the Bar Code of Ethics. This is probably because there is no real way to determine the quality of the lawyer by an advertisement. So, the web and the phone book can be a resource but keep in mind that it is “buyer beware.” Do your research before being dazzled by who can make the loudest graphic splash.
The point is, don’t rely on an attorney’s marketing ability to determine the quality of their work. Remember, one of the major criteria you might want to use in choosing an attorney is how comfortable you feel with the person and how much they involve you in the decisions that will affect your life. Many attorneys have the attitude that “well, I know how to do this and you don’t, so let me do it and don’t bother me about it.”
You should leave each meeting with your attorney with a sense of empowerment that you know what is going on. You don’t have to know every detail. But you should know what decisions you are actually making, what the implications will be for your life, and what alternatives you might have.
Attorney billing shouldn’t be confusing or intimidating. It is my mission to ensure that, upon completion of your matter, you have gotten the best value possible for your investment and that you have no unanswered questions about your bill. Further, as a solo practitioner without the need to maintain unnecessary overhead, my billing rates are tailored for you, the individual, rather than for some large corporation with deep pockets. I understand the value of a dollar and will work hard to give you the most value I can for yours.
For bankruptcy matters and most estate planning matters, I charge a flat rate for my services. For more complex or lengthy matters, if I can estimate the amount of work required, I will find an appropriate flat fee so that you can determine whether the work is affordable for you. Otherwise, if such an estimate is not feasible, I will ask for a retainer based on my hourly rate, with invoiced billings required for further work as that retainer is used.