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If you have not previously, chances are that sometime in your lifetime you'll have to employ an attorney at law. Thanks to my interview with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, below is a variety of answers to common as well as important questions.

1. QUESTION: Do I have to hire an attorney at law in the county where the problem occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers or attorneys practice in other jurisdictions and other states, depending on their licensure for the latter. Having knowledge in the county wherein the matter will be litigated is essential as that attorney will have a level of comfort with the community courthouse personnel, lawyers (likely opposing counsel) and judges. One matter in retaining a lawyer away from area in which the matter occurs is cost of journey time. Some attorneys don't charge for travel, others give you a lowered rate or preserve a billable rate for all work carried out. Talk about that question with each attorney consulted.

2. QUESTION: How am I able to make certain my attorney is resolving my problems?
ANSWER: Every good attorney keeps track of his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer agreement should include a confirmation of how the lawyer bills his clients - in advancemonthly, quarterly, etc. You may even track your case in some jurisidictions that offer on-line access to case dockets. If the county has that established, you are wise to often review the docket and see what changes have occurred by your lawyer and the other party/counsel. In addition feel comfortable getting in touch with your lawyer at intervals to learn the status of the matter, understanding you'll likely be billed for these communications.

3. QUESTION: Precisely how do I select an attorney or lawyer?
ANSWER: Legal problems are as vast as those in other sectors, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and are often just as complex. To protect your legal rights and remedies, the best practice would be to study your area of need and research what law firms are out there to help you. A recommendation from somebody you know and admire can add a personal element to the plan to hire an lawyer but should not be the singular reason counsel is picked. Research the lawyer's background of schooling, practical experience and area(s) of practice. Asking questions should be encouraged in this process. Self-help can be empowering but may also restrict or negate your recovery. Hiring a law firm should be considered with the same level of thought and consideration as that given to the choice of a medical doctor, accountant, financial advisor or therapist.

4. QUESTION: How do I determine if I require a lawyer or attorney?
ANSWER: If you have recently been served with a Summons and associated documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should endeavor to find legal assistance right away. Papers filed in court that begin a lawsuit necessitate responses that involve exact deadlines; missing out on those deadlines could compromise your defense, limit or avoid your recovery. Some matters by statute involve a "pre-suit" period that allow you to consider the legal issues and possible resolution before a lawsuit is filed. Similarly, seeking legal counsel as quickly as possible is recommended.

5. QUESTION: What exactly is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a course of action whereby the parties to the issue present at an agreed site with their counsel (if retained) and a selected mediator to try and resolve all or a number of the concerns involved. Mediators should be unrelated to all participants and the litigation at issue, are to stay impartial between the parties and their counsel, and maintain the confidential structure of the conference to recommend settlement and resolution. Generally the parties share the fee of the mediation evenly but other arrangements may be made if all parties are in agreement ahead of the conference. Mediation is normally required in every case filed in court and just before a trial is held.

6. QUESTION: What kind of law firm do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other industries, lawyers may specialize in a specific or more than one area. Similarly, law firms may specialize, offer general legal needs or offer you services in several unique areas of law. Trial lawyers handle cases involving lawsuits; family law lawyers handle divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and associated matters; general practitioners handle most matters. Some areas of law are very complex, like bankruptcy or taxation; others are delineated by statute, such as worker's compensation. Any lawyer should be able to go over your specific issue, determine if he/she is qualified to take care of such matters or inform you of the necessity to seek advice from another in a specialized area.

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asked May 17 by StepanieVxi (4,060 points)

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