No one ever comes into our offices excited to be hiring a lawyer. Usually they are scared, injured and incredibly emotional. For most it is a brand new experience and they have only TV shows to reference for what the legal process will be like.
Sitting across the table from an attorney they have just met, they are asked deeply personal questions about a traumatic experience. Then, they have to make a decision which will impact the rest of their lives.
To make matters worse, it is very hard to compare attorneys to each other. There is no other "buying" experience like it.
Here are of the top five reasons hiring a lawyer can be hard along with advice on how to choose the best attorney for you:
Previous generations of attorneys felt advertising was unseemly, and passed rules against it. Of course, it helps that those lawyers were already successful. They probably preferred no competition.
As times changed, the rules were relaxed. But they are still strict.
For example, for a limited time, Florida lawyers could advertise the results of their cases. Unfortunately, the resulting billboards and TV ads from a few lawyers drew so much scrutiny the rules have now been changed back.
It should be noted that Florida is more restrictive than other many other states: the "awesomely bad" ads with flaming sledgehammers and rapping lawyers would never be permitted here. Presently, attorneys are challenging the Florida Bar restrictions in federal court, fighting for the First Amendment right to commercial speech which would cover even "awesomely bad" commercial speech.
Personally, I would let the market place decide if an advertisement is effective or in bad taste. I believe consumers are smart enough to decide for themselves and do not need the Florida Bar to safeguard them from lawyer advertising.
Effective advertising would let consumers know facts about their attorneys, their past results, and give lawyers a chance to inform consumers about the quality and nature of their services. Because it is hard and expensive to advertise legal services, many lawyers just give up and the result is the consumer only sees a few mega "brands" and may miss out on finding the lawyer that is perfect for them.
If you need to hire an attorney, friends and family are not a bad place to start looking for recommendations. But sometimes, for whatever reason, it may not be easy to ask the people close to you about your legal issue. If that's the case:
Do your research: The phone book and the search engines are a great place to start. Once you have a few names, see if you can find reviews. Check newspaper sites online and search them for the attorney's name - maybe they have handled a few high profile cases.
Talk to courthouse staff and deputies: If you have time, I always suggest people go to the local courthouse and ask any Deputy Sheriff working there who they would recommend. Or, if you have a list of names, ask a Deputy about the attorneys on your list. Courthouse staff see all the local attorneys, and they know who gets great results.
Meet a few attorneys in person: Once you have a few choices, make appointments and meet the attorneys in person. Look around their office - is it busy and vibrant? Is the staff energized? Are they professional? I am proud to say when you come into our Daytona Beach offices you will see an office we have devoted a lot of love to. Our office is decorated with newspaper clippings from exciting cases, thank you letters from our clients and even a video clip of me in my first cage fight. You can look through our book of verdicts, read client testimonials in another book, and generally see firsthand how much pride we take in our brand!
You need to feel a "connection" with your attorney because law is a personal service. You need the right lawyer for you.
When you buy a TV, you are looking for a great picture for a great price. You know you want certain features. And your best friend will probably see your TV set the same way you do - the resolution does not change depending on who looks at it you don't have to worry about whether your TV explains things in a way you understand or whether it dismisses you. You probably don't have a strong personal feeling about your TV - you don't think it's charming or rude, kind or cruel, endearing or abrasive.
When it comes to selecting your lawyer, you need to find the most qualified attorney that you can work with. It does not matter if your attorney is the most talented to ever live if you can't stand being in the same room as them.
That is why I suggest meeting the lawyer in person. If there are multiple attorneys in the firm who handle your type of case, ask to have them join you in the conference. You might "click" with another member of that firm.
Having a good feeling about your attorney and good chemistry is critical because you will be working together for a long time and in some really tough situations. You want to find the lawyer or firm that is right for you.
Always remember that your case may end up in a trial. If your lawyer does not make a good first impression on you, what will happen in front of six strangers on a jury? With seven accomplished trial attorneys in our firm, we have a wide range of personalities, and a long track record of successfully representing people like you. We always have at least two lawyers work your case because we believe two heads at better than one (and seven heads are even better than that). No two attorneys will see a case the same way because each attorney will have a unique point of view. We feel this diversity of experience and viewpoint is of great benefit to our clients.
Legal services do not have MSRPs like cars do. There are different types of fees and varying amounts depending on the lawyer and the type of law.
Legal fees are paid in three ways:
The "flat fee" - a single price is set for all legal services (usually excluding costs) regardless of the number of hours spent on the case. This is how most criminal fees are structured. The "hourly rate" fee - the lawyer charges by the minute for handling your case at an agreed upon hourly rate. How much the case costs depends on how much time is spent on the case. This is how most civil and family law fees are structured. The "contingent" fee - the famous "we don't get paid unless we win for you" where the attorney receives a percentage of any recovery to cover their fees and costs. This is almost always how personal injury cases are handled. Because legal fees vary in each case it is very difficult to comparison shop. While one lawyer may charge five hundred dollars for a case, another may charge ten times that. If price is your only concern, then the five hundred dollar fee would seem the winner, but how can you be sure?
Behind every hourly rate or flat fee are several "hidden" facts, which are built into the quote:
There is always a premium for experience and talent; an experienced lawyer may charge more per hour than someone just starting out, but should be more efficient than a newly minted lawyer.
Attorneys who are in demand because of their talents and past results may have to turn down work at a lower fee because they have a higher case load.
Attorneys with state of the art technology and research as part of their "product" offer a real value to their clients, but need to charge more to cover the cost of those tools.
When choosing a lawyer, you want to make sure he or she has the time and energy to devote to your case. For example, our firm does not take every case that calls. We have to balance our case load with our ability to deliver top notch representation to our existing clients. With seven attorneys, we have the horsepower to aggressively represent people who have been arrested, injured or wronged. We are big enough to take on tough cases but small enough to offer personal service and attention. If you need a team of trial attorneys to fight for you, please come and meet with us. We know price is always a concern and we can work with you to make sure you can afford first rate legal services.
Every case is unique. When people ask me how many cases I have handled like theirs the honest answer is "zero!," even if it isn't the first time I have worked with that client. That is not a very comforting answer at first blush, but it's absolutely true.
Even if you have defended a thousand DUI cases, no two are exactly the same. Even if at the base level they are all similar. However, with that said, you should definitely select a lawyer who has experience in handling cases similar to yours.
Do not be surprised if an ethical attorney hesitates to tell you about past results to "sell" you. Simply put, past performance on similar cases does not guarantee the same result in your case. Ethical attorneys know this, and won't prey on your lack of knowledge with a tactic that suggests all cases are the same.
What past results do tell you are that the attorney is willing to work hard and has experience working in the legal system and within the legal process. That is incredibly important.
At our firm, we keep a book of verdicts in the lobby for our new clients to read. That book shows recently trial results and while it doesn't mean that you case will end in a trial, it shows we are willing and able to effectively try cases like yours.
No lawyer can guarantee results or predict the future (if they could they would have won the lottery several times already). If you buy a car you want to know it works. You want a warranty. As a consumer, it might seem like your attorney lacks confidence if they aren't promising the result you expect.
In law, no attorney can or should promise you any result or outcome. It's outright unethical. If an attorney tells you they guarantee an outcome, take your money and run. Fast.
Here are the only promises or predictions an ethical lawyer can make, and I am going to make them to you, here and now, on behalf of our firm:
"If you hire me, I promise to give you my best counsel and to do my best for you - as I have for every client from the moment I started practicing law - until the day I retire. I promise to treat you as I would want to be treated and as I would treat my own loved ones. I promise I will always stand between you and harm."
At Delgado & Romanik, we have more than 150 years combined legal experience. We have helped thousands of people who sat across the table with us nervous, angry and scared or in terrible pain. We have sat across from people in jail cells who wondered if they would ever walk free again. We have stood beside hospital beds and held the hand of injured clients. We do not envy you having to hire a lawyer. It is always at a time in your life when you would rather be doing anything else. It is extremely unlikely you have been putting money away in your "hire a lawyer" fund.
We get it. When you meet with us, we understand it's probably one of the worst days of your life. So we want to make it easier for you to hand your burden over to us and let us shoulder it for you.
Please, if you have been arrested injured or wronged, contact our firm and schedule a consultation. We will be honored to serve you.