Choosing a personal injury attorney is an important personal decision. Advertisements and recommendations from friends and family can be helpful, but you’ll ultimately have to rely on your own personal experience. You must have confidence in the attorney and his ability to represent your best interests.
Reputable personal injury attorneys don’t charge for initial consultations. Make an office appointment and bring all your notes with you. That’s the best way to get acquainted and develop a good feel for how the attorney will handle your case.
Your relationship with the attorney and staff may last for months, even years. Your decision should be based on the relationship you expect and deserve to have. That relationship begins with your first call and initial consultation. Afterwards, an honest evaluation of your experience will help you decide if it’s the right firm for you.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How long did it take to answer your call?If your call isn’t answered right away, or you are put on hold for a long time, that’s an immediate indication the attorney is either overwhelmed with too many cases, or his staff is inadequate.
- Was the receptionist polite?If the person answering your initial call is impolite or insincere, you won’t get a positive first impression. You want to feel welcome as a client, especially later when you call for updates on your case. You don’t want to be dismissed or made to feel like you’re a bother.
- Who was your initial appointment with?If you can’t speak with an attorney on your first visit, it’s possible you never will – at least until your case settles. Some attorneys have their paralegals or even secretaries screen cases. It’s inappropriate for an attorney not to at least give you the courtesy of a face-to-face meeting.
- Is there any charge for your first consultation?Reputable personal injury attorneys never charge a fee for an initial consultation. Any attorney who charges administrative fees for initial office visits should be suspect, especially if you won’t be able to meet with the attorney personally.
- Was the attorney’s office clean and organized?A cluttered and disorganized office is often a sign of a cluttered and disorganized attorney. Disorganization can lead to lost files and documents, missed deadlines and court appearances, and improperly handled cases.
- Did you have to wait a long time to see the attorney?Like a doctor’s office, sometimes there’s a wait before seeing the attorney. A staff member should greet you and give an estimate of how long you’ll have to wait. Sometimes meetings with clients go longer than expected, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the future, it could be you who’s getting the extra time with the attorney.
- Did the attorney appear well-groomed and professional?Your attorney may have to attend court hearings or depositions with other attorneys. A professional appearance and demeanor is important.
- Did the attorney give you their undivided attention?If the attorney can’t even give you 15 minutes of his attention the first time he meets you, there’s a good chance your case will be handled the same way. If he’s distracted by telephone calls and interrupted by his staff, you may want to look elsewhere. You want an injury attorney who will give your case the time and attention it needs.
- Did the attorney answer all your questions?You don’t want to walk out of your first meeting with unanswered questions. It may be unrealistic to expect the attorney to give you an exact dollar value for your case, but he should cover the following:
- Pros and cons of your case
- Approximately how long it will take to settle
- The likelihood it will go to trial
- A range for the settlement amount (based on your documentation)
- Who will be working your case?There are personal injury attorneys who delegate much of the work on their clients’ cases to paralegals, assistants, and even their receptionists. The attorney only handles the actual settlement negotiations. Believe it or not, there are even some attorneys who have paralegals negotiate their clients’ settlements.When choosing an injury attorney, you want to know who will be working on your case. Will it be a paralegal or the attorney? Unfortunately, just about anyone can call themselves a “paralegal” or “legal assistant.” Although there are some certification degrees, an attorney can bestow whatever title he wants on a non-attorney employee.
- Do you feel confident in this attorney?After weighing all the factors, your decision will likely come down to your gut feeling about the attorney. If they inspired confidence and made you feel comfortable from your first contact, they may be the right attorney for you.
Contact Harold for a free review of your case today 504-666-9022.
Click here if you missed Part 1 of How to Contact a New Orleans Personal Injury Lawyer.