1. Is the lawyer someone I can trust and I am comfortable with?
The relationship with your lawyer can last over a period of many months to years and you could spend a lot of time , money and effort together. You are not going to know all the ins and outs of your case, otherwise you would not need a lawyer. It is important to have a lawyer you trust and that you can talk to, who will listen to you and that you are comfortable dealing with. Bedside manner is important, because the two of you are entering into an important relationship.
2. Who will handle my case? Will a partner or associate be assigned to the case? A non-lawyer?
Sometimes, the lawyer you meet is not the lawyer who performs the majority of the work on the case. Clients do not appreciate being "switched" to an unfamiliar, less experienced lawyer whom they have not met. Some firms use non-lawyers, called case managers, to handle your case. Think about who you want to handle your case and ask who will be doing the work and who will be working with you.
3. What experience does the lawyer who will handles the case have with trials? What about with my type of case?
Many lawyers are great at "working up" the case, but try to avoid going to trial even when the other side is offering a very unreasonable or no settlement offer. Most lawyers who try a lot of cases handle the case from the beginning as if it would proceed to trial. If it settles, fine. If not, they are extremely prepared to try the case. A lawyer who handles the case as if it is going to settle either must accept a low settlement offer or try a bad case. Also, is the lawyer experienced in the area of law concerning your case? Are they respected by their peers? The world's greatest corporate lawyer may not be the right lawyer for your personal injury claim. The law is getting more specialized by the day, it seems. Ask them their experiences concerning your type of case.
4. Will I have input into the decision to try or settle the case?
Some lawyers seek little or no input from the client when the decision to settle or try the case is at hand. Make sure that the lawyer you choose allows such input and cannot settle your case without your express consent to do so. It is your case. However, remember to be receptive to opinions different than your own. An experienced lawyer knows that good advice may contain bad news.
5. What costs will be involved in handling my case?
Clients are never happy when the lawyer fails to explain from the beginning the costs which will be involved in the case. Almost all lawyers take a fee on the total amount recovered with the costs coming out of the client's portion. If those costs are high, as in medical malpractice or other complex litigation, any recovery can be substantially reduced. Make sure your lawyer can provide a detailed accounting of the costs as the case progresses. If necessary you can ask to approve the major costs before it is expended.
6. How can I track the progress of my case?
This is an important question. Most lawyers cannot talk directly to the client every time he calls (although the lawyer should try). If your lawyer is not available when you need an update, establish in the beginning a contact person whom you can call or write for a progress report. Or, set up a schedule at the beginning of the case (once a month is a good time) to talk to someone about the progress of the case and the plan for the future.
7. How is the value of my case determined?
Most lawyers use a combination of experience and a review of other previously decided cases (precedent) in considering the potential value of the case. The chance of proving liability and the fault of the client or other parties, the nature and extent of the damages, the jurisdiction of the case, the law applicable to the case, the quality of the evidence and the credibility of the witnesses are very important factors.
8. What are my chances for success in this case? What does "success" mean in my type of case?
What can you achieve in your type of case? What is a successful outcome? It is important from the very beginning to understand what the realistic chances of success there is in your case. If the case is risky with a low probability of winning, this should be explained to you in the beginning to avoid any misunderstandings later on as the case progresses. A good lawyer is always realistic in his or her appraisal of the case. Be wary of rosy predictions given without a full review of the facts and law in your case.