In the event that you haven't previously, probably sometime in a lifetime you'll have to hire a lawyer. Thanks to my discussion with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, what follows is a variety of responses to basic along with fundamental questions.
1. QUESTION: How will I be certain my attorney is resolving my case?
ANSWER: Every good attorney accounts for his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer agreement should include a affirmation of how the lawyer bills his clients - in advancemonthly, quarterly, etc. You may even keep track of your case in some jurisidictions that supply on-line accessibility to case dockets. If the county has that available, you're wise to often review the docket and see what events have taken place by your counsel and the other party/counsel. You should also feel comfortable contacting your attorney at intervals to ascertain the status of the matter, understanding you will likely be billed for these communications.
2. QUESTION: Do I need to hire an attorney at law in the county where the issue occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers or attorneys practice in other jurisdictions and other states, depending on their licensure for the latter. Having knowledge in the county in which the matter is being litigated is important as that lawyer will have a comfort level with the local courthouse personnel, lawyers (likely opposing counsel) and judges. One thing to consider in retaining legal counsel outside the area in which the matter occurs is cost of journey time. Some attorneys do not charge for travel, others offer a reduced rate or maintain a billable rate for all work carried out. Talk about that question with each attorney consulted.
3. QUESTION: How do I know if I require a lawyer or attorney?
ANSWER: If you have recently been served with a Summons and comparable documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should endeavor to find legal guidance without delay. Papers filed in court that start a lawsuit require responses that involve exact deadlines; missing those deadlines could damage your defense, limit or avoid your recovery. Some matters by statute involve a "pre-suit" period that allow you to take into account the legal issues and potential resolution before a suit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer as quickly as possible is advised.
4. QUESTION: Exactly what is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the case present at an agreed area with their counsel (if retained) and a selected mediator to try and resolve all or some of the concerns involved. Mediators need to be unrelated to all parties and the litigation at issue, are to remain impartial between the parties and their lawyer, and maintain the confidential aspect of the conference to inspire settlement and resolution. Usually the parties share the charge of the mediation equally but other arrangements may be made if all parties are in agreement ahead of the conference. Mediation is normally required in just about every case filed in court and prior to a trial is held.
5. QUESTION: What type of legal professional do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other industries, lawyers may concentrate in a certain or more than one area. Similarly, law firms may specialize, provide general legal needs or offer services in several specific areas of law. Trial lawyers handle cases involving lawsuits; family law attorneys handle separation and divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and associated matters; general practitioners handle almost all matters. Some areas of law are extremely specialized, like bankruptcy or taxation; others are delineated by statute, as in worker's compensation. Any lawyer should be able to talk about your particular issue, determine if he/she is qualified to handle such matters or advise you of the necessity to speak with another in a specialized area.
6. QUESTION: Precisely how do I pick an attorney or lawyer?
ANSWER: Legal issues are as vast as those in other industries, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and usually are just as perplexing. To protect your rights and remedies, the best practice would be to study your area of need and research what attorneys are around to work with you. A referral from someone you know and regard can bring a personal element to the consideration to hire an law firm but really should not be the only reason counsel is chosen. Look into the attorney's background of training, practical experience and area(s) of practice. Asking questions should be encouraged in this process. Self-help could be empowering but may also limit or negate your recovery. Hiring a legal professional should be considered with exactly the same degree of thought and consideration as that directed at the selection of a physician, accountant, financial consultant or therapist.
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