Assuming you haven't before now, chances are that sometime in a lifetime you'll need to employ legal counsel. With the help of my consultation with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, what follows is a number of responses to common along with important questions.
1. QUESTION: Do I want to hire an attorney at law in the county where the problem occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many attorneys practice in other counties and other states, depending on their licensure for the latter. Having experience in the county wherein the matter is being litigated is essential as that attorney will have a comfort level with the community courthouse personnel, attorneys (likely opposing lawyer) and judges. One thing to consider in retaining a lawyer outside the area in which the matter occurs is cost of travel time. Some lawyers do not charge for travel, others give you a decreased rate or maintain a billable rate for all work performed. Discuss that question with each attorney consulted.
2. QUESTION: How will I make sure my attorney is working on my problems?
ANSWER: Every good attorney keeps track of his time (fees) and expenditures (costs). Your retainer arrangement should include a statement of how the attorney bills his clients - month-to-month, quarterly, etc. You may also track your case in some jurisidictions that offer on-line access to case dockets. If the county has that set up, you're wise to periodically review the docket and see what changes have transpired by your attorney and the other party/counsel. It's also advisable to feel at ease getting in touch with your lawyer at intervals to learn the status of the matter, knowing you'll likely be billed for these interactions.
3. QUESTION: Exactly how do I select an attorney at law?
ANSWER: Legal matters are as vast as those in other industries, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and are generally just as perplexing. To protect your rights and remedies, the very best practice would be to study your area of need and research what legal professionals are accessible to work with you. A recommendation from someone you know and respect can bring a personal element to the plan to hire an law firm but shouldn't be the sole reason counsel is picked. Look into the attorney's background of schooling, expertise and area(s) of practice. Asking basic questions should be urged in this process. Self-help could be strengthening but can also limit or negate your recovery. Hiring a law firm should be contemplated with the exact same level of thought and consideration as that directed at the pick of a doctor, accountant, financial advisor or therapist.
4. QUESTION: How do I determine if I will need a lawyer or attorney?
ANSWER: If you have recently been served with a Summons and associated documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should really endeavor to seek legal guidance right away. Documents filed in court that start a lawsuit call for responses that involve particular deadlines; missing those deadlines could compromise your defense, reduce or avoid your recovery. Some matters by statute involve a "pre-suit" time period that allow you to consider the legal issues and probable resolution before a suit is filed. Similarly, seeking legal counsel immediately is recommended.
5. QUESTION: Exactly what is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a course of action whereby the parties to the matter present at an agreed location with their counsel (if retained) and a chosen mediator to try and resolve all or some of the problems involved. Mediators are to be unrelated to all participants and the litigation at issue, are to stay impartial in between the parties and their counsel, and maintain the confidential aspect of the conference to recommend settlement and resolution. Generally the parties share the cost of the mediation equally but other arrangements can be made if all parties are in agreement in advance of the conference. Mediation is usually required in every case filed in court and before a trial is held.
6. QUESTION: What kind of law firm do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other businesses, attorneys may concentrate in a specific or more than one area. Similarly, law firms may specialize, provide general legal needs or offer services in a few specific areas of law. Trial lawyers deal with cases involving lawsuits; family law attorneys handle divorce cases, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and related matters; general practitioners handle most matters. Some areas of law are extremely complex, like bankruptcy or taxation; others are delineated by statute, such as worker's compensation. Any lawyer should be able to discuss your particular issue, determine if he or she is prepared to handle such matters or advise you of the necessity to consult with another in a specialized area.
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