13 Questions to ask a lawyer to determine how good they are
When you are facing a day in court, it is in your best interest to have an experienced lawyer.
Choosing the right solicitor for your case is very important. You would never seek medical attention from a doctor that was not trained to handle your specific condition, so you should never hire a lawyer that is not qualified in your type of case.
Selecting the right legal representation can be easy if you follow these 13 questions to ask a lawyer during the initial consultation.
- DO YOU SPECIALISE IN THIS AREA OF LAW?
To find the right lawyer, you will want to know if the Lawyer has experience in this area of law or if the firm is able to support this type of case.
If your Lawyer does not usually handle this type pf case, you may be taking a risk by accepting their services. For example, if you have been charged with a Criminal Offence, then you would require the specialised services of a Criminal Defence Lawyer.
Additionally, you should only seek the services of a lawyer who has a proven track record in defending the case you are being charged with.
- ARE YOU THE LAWYER THAT WILL HANDLE MY CASE?
During your initial consultation, you will want to confirm if the person conducting the interview will be the actual Lawyer that handles your case.
This is very important because you need to establish a working relationship with your legal representative.
If you are not comfortable with your Lawyer or have any concerns about your lawyer you should not continue to hire them to handle your case.
If you are being interviewed by an experienced Lawyer or Partner of the Law Firm confirm that they will be the lawyer appearing in your case. On occasions the Lawyer that has the first consultation is not the lawyer that will appear for you and you may end up with a junior lawyer conducting your case.
- HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN PRACTICING AS A LAWYER?
This is an important question to ask a lawyer as you will want to know how long your lawyer has been admitted to practice as a lawyer. Another component of this question is to ask how long the lawyer has specialised in their area of Law. You should usually look for a Lawyer that has had 10 or more years of experience specialising in that area of Law, especially when seeking a Criminal Defence Lawyer.
While junior lawyers are not necessarily a bad choice, they may need support from their firm to guide them through a case. If your lawyer is not experienced, then ask them what the policies of the law firm are concerning support offered to the junior lawyers.
You should ask a junior lawyer if the firm will assign a more experienced lawyer to oversee the junior lawyer’s cases.
This information can, and should, be verified on the Law Society of NSW website.
- CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE MEANING BEHIND THE OFFENCE I AM CHARGED WITH?
You want to know for sure that your Lawyer understands everything about your case, and ensure that they can explain it to you in plain English.
This is very important, especially in cases where people may have been charged with Criminal Offences.
You should feel comfortable that your lawyer understands the Law of the case you have been charged with and how to create the best outcome for your own situation.
If the Lawyer can explain in detail the elements of the offence surrounding the charges against you and answer any questions you may have, this will give you an indication that the lawyer has a good understanding of the Law surrounding your charge.
If they cannot answer these questions, they may not have any experience in your type of case and this could impact the outcome of your case.
- WHAT ARE THE COSTS FOR YOUR SERVICES?
The lawyer’s fees should be made very clear and concise to you right from the start. You should be provided with a disclosure of fees document and costs agreement.
The costs disclosure will provide you with all the potential fees associated with your case an importantly the Lawyers hourly rate.
You should be made aware of all costs that will be associated with the case and the potential for any extra costs, such as calling in experts that may be necessary in the future.
The Lawyer should draw up all this information for you in contract form and should go over each part of the contract with you.
You will always want total transparency when it comes to the fees associated with your legal representation.
Additionally, you should seek the services of a lawyer who may provide Flexible Payment Terms for their clients.
- DOES THE FIRM OPERATE A TRUST ACCOUNT FOR LEGAL FEES?
One of the most important questions to ask a lawyer is how the retainer money is handled with their firm.
You will need to know if they have a trust account to deposit legal fees. A Trust account provides protection to both the Lawyer and the client.
Your solicitor should have a separate account that they deposit your fees into and then withdraw sums from this account as your fees need to be paid. The fees can be transferred from the Trust account to the Lawyers account once the Lawyer has provided an invoice to you and you have provided your instructions that the Lawyer can pay himself the nominated fee in the Invoice.
This ensures that there is always a good working relationship as you are aware of what the Lawyer has charged you for and you have the opportunity of need be to challenge the invoice before the Lawyer transfers it into their own account.
- WHY SHOULD I TRUST YOU TO HANDLE MY CASE?
You should be very forward with your prospective lawyer and ask them why they should be trusted with your case.
Allow them to tell you what sets them apart from other lawyers and how they can best serve you.
There is nothing wrong with finding out about your lawyer in this manner and asking this type of question should be encouraged.
And always remember if you are unhappy with your Lawyer you can find another Lawyer that you may feel would do a better job for you.
- WILL YOUR CASE BE THE ONLY CASE THE LAWYER HANDLES THE DAY OF TRIAL?
You will want a Lawyer who has the ability, to dedicate the appropriate time to your case.
This includes the day of your case. Some Lawyers will schedule several cases on the day your case is to be heard in Court.
You want your lawyer to be able to pay full attention to your case and not be pressured by many cases that they have, to finalise on the day your matter is in Court.
- WHAT STEPS NEED TO BE TAKEN TO BUILD A GOOD CASE?
Based on the facts surrounding your case, your lawyer should be able to give you detailed information on what needs to take place for you to have a successful case. This is relevant to people who are pleading guilty or not guilty.
This includes information and evidence that you will need to provide, timelines for receiving and reviewing evidence, information about any witnesses to the events.
Your lawyer should be able to provide you in detail every step of the case building process and what to expect as an outcome.
- WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SOLICITOR AND A BARRISTER?
Your Lawyer should be able to provide you with detailed information on the difference between a solicitor (lawyer) and a barrister (advocate).
The first person that you will contact in a legal proceeding is a lawyer.
If your lawyer needs expert testimony or if you are required to go to trial, you will most likely need a barrister to represent you before the Court together with your solicitor.
- WILL I NEED A BARRISTER?
Your lawyer should be able to disclose from the information they have received during the initial interview if a barrister will be needed as part of the case.
If you want your solicitor to retain a Barrister to appear for you, the solicitor should make those arrangements.
There is a difference between a solicitor and a Barrister.
- WHAT WILL BE THE OUTCOME IF I PLEAD GUILTY TO THE CHARGES?
At that time, they should also provide you with other options, such as agreeing to plead to a lesser charge if it can be arranged, or taking you through a suggested set of Facts which be handed to the Magistrate or Judge when you plead guilty and are sentenced.
Your Lawyer should be able to inform you of all possible outcomes to any plea you enter with the court.
This will help you make an informed decision about what to do with your plea.
- HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR MY CASE TO FINALISE?
Your lawyer should be able to give you an approximate length of time it will take to handle your case as well as how long it may take to conclude. Their experience in these types of cases will give them an estimate that they can provide to you.
If your lawyer cannot give you this type of information, inquire as to why.
You may not want to work with a Lawyer that continually asks the court to extend the time-period for the case without explaining to you the reasons why.
Answers to these questions that you find appropriate should help you find a good lawyer that is well suited to handle your case.
Benjamin Leonardo, Sydney based Criminal Defence Lawyers, have offices in Sydney and Parramatta and are conveniently located near the district courts. They understand the strain criminal cases have on their clients and families alike, and provide sympathetic and non-judgemental advice and support to their clients. Having defended more than 3,800 cases and with a success rate of over 90%, Benjamin Leonardo Defence Lawyers in Sydney & Parramatta, provide their clients with informed legal advice and flexible payment terms. If you have been charged with a criminal offence, please contact Benjamin Leonardo on (02) 9283 3033, for your first Free Consultation.