Most of us never really think about lawyers, because thankfully, we don’t have to. Maybe we’ve been fortunate enough to never have to seek professional legal advice, or never needed to get help with starting a business or separating from a partner.

The one thing that most of us do actually know about lawyers is how expensive they can be. Perhaps the thought of paying a lawyer is one reason why you’ve never gone to one, even if you really could have used their advice. While yes, they can be high on the scale of fees and hourly rates, lawyers sometimes are completely necessary, and you’ll simply need to make the best of the situation. Since they are so expensive, this article can serve as a beginner’s guide for you to get the best and the most out of your lawyer, and to make use of every hour and every dollar you’re spending.

Plan ahead  

Most lawyers charge their fees as an hourly rate, meaning that each hour you spend with them working through your case will be charged. This means that your time should be treated as preciously as possible, since you’re literately paying for every single minute of it. To do this, make sure you plan ahead before every visit or phone call.

Have a to do list of what you want to accomplish in that meeting. Start the list off with what you talked about last time, to get the conversation going and refresh both of you on what you’ve already accomplished in your case. Then, list off what still needs to be done. Try and keep it limited to what you can get accomplished within that meeting, versus talking about things that are way in the future. That way, your visit or phone call will be easier to action and you’ll stay focused on one thing at a time and reduce any overwhelming feelings about what’s to come.  

If possible, and your lawyer encourages it, send your lawyer a quick memo prior to your meeting with a shortened version of the above, as in, what you want to accomplish and what you’ve went through last meeting. This way, they can be prepared with answers to any questions you have and be ready to attack the to do list with you.  

If your lawyer happens to charge a flat fee, or a contingency fee, then these action items may not be as relevant, since you aren’t paying for the amount of time they spend. Regardless of the way you’re charged, however, you should still be prepared each meeting so neither of you are wasting any time.

Be educated

Again, if you’re paying by the hour, you don’t want to waste second of it. To avoid wasting it, make sure that you’re fully educated with your issue and the implications of it. For example, if you’re using a lawyer to help you write up your final will, you’ll want to be familiar with all the aspects of a will. Knowing what an executor is will help you be better equipped to decide who you want to name. It will also help you going in to your meeting knowing the legal jargon that might get brought up so that you aren’t wasting your minutes getting a quick lesson on definitions.  

You should also try and educate yourself on what the typical outcomes are for your type of case. If possible, read up on some previous cases that set the legal precedent for your issue. The outcomes of those precedents will give you an idea of what a judge will most likely rule on your case. Naturally, you’ll want to meet with your lawyer for their advice over your own research, but the more informed you are on your issue, the better.

Sort out billing and fees first

Before you even begin any type of binding contract with a lawyer, you’ll absolutely want to have all fees and billing sorted first. Agree upon what type of fees you’ll be using, such as the flat fees or hourly rates. Have a contract written up and make sure you read through the entire thing several times to make sure you fully understand how you’ll be billed. Agree upon whether you’ll be billed at the end of services, or if you’ll need to make payments as you go along.

Find a specialised lawyer

If you’re going to spend the money, make sure that your lawyer is specialised in the type of law that you require. For example, if your issue is in regards to your work, make sure your lawyer is an expert in employment law. If you’ll be pursuing an entity or person for money owed, your lawyer should have experience doing so. There are a number of different types of lawyers, so be aware of this when searching for the right one for you.  

Have effective communication

Lastly, and most importantly, you need to be able to communicate openly and effectively with your lawyer. You should also expect the same from your lawyer. Your lawyer can’t help you effectively if they don’t know the entire story of your case. Be sure to let them know as soon as possible when something changes as well.

You should also be available to them at any time. Changes may come up in your case that require your attention immediately, so make sure you both have a quick and easy way to get a hold of each other. Lawyers may need you to make a decision about something quickly, or get your sign off to pursue an avenue in your case. Be prepared for things like this by having frank conversations with your lawyer about what could be coming up in your case.

With this guide in hand, you should now be ready to get out that and start searching for the right lawyer for you. Remember to do your research, be informed, and trust your gut, and you’ll find the exact lawyer you need for every case.

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