When should I go see a lawyer?
Even though you may have to pay to go and meet with a lawyer to find out about
your rights or your liabilities, it is always better to meet with a lawyer and
get advice before you get into a legal dispute or go into court. You should
consult with a lawyer when:
Planning to enter into a verbal or written contract or agreement that has
Thinking about trying to get out of a verbal or written contract or
agreement that is still in effect;
Thinking about opening, closing, or makings changes to your own business;
You are involved in an accident involving either an injury to yourself or
another person or damage to property;
You are involved in a court matter such as a criminal case, a civil lawsuit,
or a domestic controversy such as paternity, child support, or divorce;
- Drafting a Will or plan for the support of someone after your death;
- You are considering filing for bankruptcy protection; or
You want to learn about your legal position/options on any given matter.
How do I find a lawyer to represent me?
There are many ways to go about finding a lawyer. By talking to friends and
family, you are likely to find someone who has hired a lawyer with whom they
were pleased. The Virginia Lawyer Referral Service, provided through the
Virginia State Bar, can give you the name of a lawyer who practices in your
area in the field of law in which you need help. Lawyers in this service have
agreed to consult with those referred for up to one half hour for a prepaid
fee of $35. If more time is needed, the lawyer and client can agree on terms
of continued representation. You can get more information on the Virginia
Lawyer Referral Service at www.vsb.org/vlrs or you can call them directly at
(800) 552-7977 (toll-free Statewide and Nationwide), (804) 775-0808 (metro
Richmond), or (804) 775-1120 (for the hearing-impaired). Some local bar
associations (groups of lawyers practicing in your area) have similar referral
services. You can look online to locate contact information about the local
bar association. Your local courts, the internet, and radio and television ads
are also sources of information you can turn to when looking for an attorney.
How do I decide which lawyer to hire?
Some lawyers have a general practice, which means they deal with many types of
legal issues. You will also find lawyers who specialize their practice in one
field of law. The nature of your legal problem and the amount in controversy
may have an impact on the lawyer you want to hire to do the job. Most lawyers
will readily answer questions about their legal training and experience, and
there are several directories on the internet and in your local law library
that rate lawyers.
How do lawyers charge for their services?
There are several common fee arrangements offered by lawyers. Regarding the
initial meeting, some lawyers charge their standard hourly rate, some charge a
reduced rate, and some offer free initial consultations. During the initial
meeting, do not be shy about asking how you will be charged for legal services
if you decide to hire that lawyer. Depending on the kind of case you have, you
may be charged an up-front flat fee (common in criminal cases) or you may be
billed on an hourly basis. When attorneys bill on an hourly basis, they often
ask for an upfront deposit known as an advanced fee or retainer fee. This
money is held in a trust account for you by the lawyer and the time billed by
the lawyer is paid from that account. In a case such as a personal injury
case, your lawyer may charge a contingency fee, which is a percentage of any
money you recover in the case. Don’t forget to discuss and review what other
legal fees and costs might be charged by your lawyer while he or she is
representing you. These additional fees can include filing fees paid to a
court, photo copying charges, and fees paid to process servers or expert
witnesses. You should not hesitate to ask for a written fee agreement from any
attorney you hire so that you are clear about how you will be charged. It is
preferable to have a written agreement with any attorney you hire.
Is the relationship of a lawyer and client confidential?
With a few exceptions, your lawyer has an ethical obligation to keep secret
any information you give him or her as a client. Therefore, you should feel
free to tell your lawyer all the facts in your case — even if you think those
facts make you look bad, or they are not favorable to you. However, your
lawyer may in very limited circumstances be required by law or by court order
to discuss information you have confided (for example, if you tell your lawyer
you intend to commit a crime in the future).
What if I believe that my lawyer is not handling my case properly?
You should first raise all questions or concerns about the handling of your case with your lawyer. If you and your lawyer still cannot resolve your differences, you have several options: consider hiring a new lawyer; filing a complaint with the Virginia State Bar; mediating or arbitrating a fee dispute; or suing for malpractice.
The Virginia State Bar (VSB) provides all individuals with the opportunity to file complaints about lawyers whom they believe have failed to meet the rules of ethical conduct. To receive a complaint form from the VSB Intake Department, call (804) 775-0570 (Richmond), (866) 548-0873 (toll free), or visit the VSB website at www.vsb.org/site/regulation/inquiry.
If you are having a dispute with your lawyer over the fee you have been charged, the VSB provides a voluntary mediation and/or binding arbitration services to work out these issues. For more information, call (804) 775-9423, or for a copy of the rules and regulations regarding fee mediation and/or arbitration, visit the VSB website at www.vsb.org/site/public/fee-disputeresolution-program. The VSB’s website (www.vsb.org) provides public information concerning lawyers licensed in Virginia.
If you feel your attorney has committed malpractice, you may sue your attorney for damages to recover your losses.