GUIDE: HIRING A LAWYER
There are resources all around you that can help you find the perfect attorney for your case and situation. First, you can ask other professionals whose judgment you trust, such as your doctor or accountant, for the name of a good lawyer. Also try business people who often work with attorneys, as well as legal service organizations like your state bar association.
The State Bar of Michigan works to promote good relations between the legal profession and the public, and they are an excellent resource. Using their website www.michbar.org, you can research attorneys, get referrals, find out about legal aid options, and read about legal issues.
Remember that you are entitled to interview lawyers. At the meetings ask questions about the attorney’s experience with matters like yours and about their practice. Ask how long it should take to deal with your matter and whether there are alternative ways to deal with your situation. Always remember though, that things can occur to lengthen the process. Make sure you ask about the attorney’s methods of communication and how often you will hear from him or her. You should be able to communicate effectively with the lawyer you choose. Always be completely comfortable with the lawyer you hire.
Once you have chosen an attorney, he or she may give you a written retainer or fee agreement. Be sure to read it carefully and discuss any questions you have before signing the agreement. The agreement should at least set forth the amount of legal fees to be paid and how the fees will be billed and due, and which costs will be your responsibility. You can ask for an estimate of costs, their hourly rates and who in the lawyer’s office will be working on your matter. Remember that it will be an estimate, and that circumstances can affect the total fee amounts.
It is your attorney’s responsibility to give you objective advice and protect your rights. It is your responsibility to be honest with this attorney and to get him or her all relevant documents and information. Your attorney cannot represent you effectively without knowing the whole situation.
Remember also, that you are entitled to make the final decisions about how to proceed with your case and about any settlement options. You are entitled to consult with your lawyer about the methods to be used in your case but your attorney is bound by certain ethical conduct standards. The attorney is not allowed to employ means that would violate those standards, even if that is what you request. Your attorney is also allowed to make certain legal decisions on your behalf if necessary.
At the end of your matter your attorney will retain your file for a period of time. He or she will notify you and give you an opportunity to have any “client property” returned to you before the file is destroyed. Client property is anything you provided to the lawyer, and any original documents like wills, deeds, etc.