In the case you have not previously, probably sometime in your own lifetime you will have to retain the services of a lawyer. With the help of my consultation with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, what follows is a variety of responses to common and fundamental questions.
1. QUESTION: Do I want to hire an attorney at law in the county where the case occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers practice in other counties and other states, depending on their licensure for the latter. Having experience in the county in which the matter will be litigated is crucial as that attorney will have a level of comfort with the neighborhood courthouse personnel, lawyers (likely opposing counsel) and judges. One consideration in hiring an attorney outside the area in which the matter occurs is cost of journey time. Some lawyers don't charge for travel, others give you a reduced rate or preserve a billable rate for all work conducted. Talk about that question with each lawyer consulted.
2. QUESTION: How will I make certain my attorney is working on my issues?
ANSWER: Every good attorney keeps track of his time (fees) and expenditures (costs). Your retainer arrangement should include a affirmation of how the lawyer bills his clients - month-to-month, quarterly, etc. You may also track your case in some jurisidictions that supply on-line accessibility to case dockets. If the county has that set up, you are wise to periodically review the docket and see what activities have taken place by your lawyer and the other party/counsel. Also feel comfortable getting in touch with your lawyer at intervals to learn the status of the issue, knowing you will likely be billed for these communications.
3. QUESTION: Precisely how do I pick an attorney at law?
ANSWER: Legal dilemmas 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 law firms are available to work with you. A referral from someone you know and admire can add a personal element to the decision to hire an attorney but shouldn't be the singular reason counsel is selected. Look into the lawyer's background of schooling, experience and area(s) of practice. Asking basic questions should be urged in this process. Self-help could be empowering but may also restrict or negate your recovery. Hiring a lawyer should be contemplated with the same degree of thought and consideration as that given to the pick of a medical doctor, accountant, financial consultant or therapist.
4. QUESTION: How do I determine if I require a lawyer?
ANSWER: If you have already been served with a Summons and associated documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you really should endeavor to seek legal assistance right away. Papers filed in court that begin a lawsuit require responses that involve exact deadlines; missing out on those deadlines could damage your defense, restrict or avoid your recovery. Some concerns by statute involve a "pre-suit" period of time that allow you to take into account the legal issues and potential resolution before a suit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer at the earliest opportunity is recommended.
5. QUESTION: Exactly what is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the matter present at an agreed local with their counsel (if retained) and a selected mediator to try and resolve all or some of the problems involved. Mediators should be unrelated to all participants and the litigation at issue, are to remain impartial between the parties and their lawyer, and maintain the confidential structure of the conference to inspire settlement and resolution. Typically the parties share the charge of the mediation equally but other arrangements may be made if all parties are in agreement in advance of the conference. Mediation is generally required in every case filed in court and before a trial is held.
6. QUESTION: What kind of legal professional do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other businesses, attorneys may specialize in a certain or more than one area. Similarly, law offices may specialize, offer general legal needs or offer you services in a few unique areas of law. Trial lawyers handle cases involving lawsuits; family law attorneys handle divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and associated matters; general practitioners handle almost all matters. Some areas of law are extremely complex, like bankruptcy or taxation; some are delineated by statute, as in worker's compensation. Any lawyer can discuss your particular issue, determine if he or she is prepared to handle such matters or advise you of the need to seek advice from another in a specialized area.
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