Assuming you have not by now, probably sometime in your lifetime you will have to retain legal counsel. Thanks to my consultation with Tampa Lawyer Christina Mesa, here is a number of answers to common along with important questions.
1. QUESTION: How do I know if I will need a legal professional?
ANSWER: If you have been served with a Summons and associated documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you really should endeavor to look for legal assistance right away. Papers filed in court that start a lawsuit necessitate responses that involve particular deadlines; missing those deadlines could compromise your defense, restrict or avoid your recovery. Some concerns by statute involve a “pre-suit” period that enable you to consider the legal issues and possible resolution before a lawsuit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer at the earliest opportunity is advised.
2. QUESTION: Do I have to hire an attorney or lawyer in the county where the issue occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many attorneys practice in other counties and other states, based on their licensure for the latter. Having experience in the county in which the matter will be litigated is essential as that attorney will have a level of comfort with the local courthouse personnel, attorneys (likely opposing counsel) and judges. One consideration in hiring a lawyer away from area in which the matter takes place is cost of journey time. Some lawyers do not charge for travel, others offer a reduced rate or maintain a billable rate for all work carried out. Clarify that question with each attorney consulted.
3. QUESTION: What exactly 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 solve all or a number of the problems involved. Mediators should be unrelated to all parties and the litigation at issue, are to stay impartial between the parties and their counsel, and continue maintaining the confidential nature of the conference to encourage settlement and resolution. Generally the parties share the charge of the mediation equally but other arrangements can be made if all parties are in agreement ahead of the conference. Mediation is typically required in just about every case filed in court and prior to a trial is held.
4. QUESTION: What type of lawyer do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other industries, lawyers may specialise in a specific or more than one area. Similarly, law firms may specialize, provide general legal needs or offer you services in several specific areas of law. Trial lawyers handle cases involving lawsuits; family law lawyers handle divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and related matters; general practitioners handle almost all matters. Some areas of law are very specialized, like bankruptcy or taxation; some are delineated by statute, like worker’s compensation. Any lawyer should be able to talk about your specific issue, determine if he or she is prepared to handle such matters or inform you of the necessity to seek advice from another in a specialised area.
5. QUESTION: How am I able to make sure my lawyer is resolving my problems?
ANSWER: Every good attorney keeps track of his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer arrangement should include a affirmation of how the attorney bills his clients – once a month, quarterly, etc. You may even track your case in some jurisidictions that provide on-line accessibility to case dockets. If the county has that set up, you are wise to occasionally review the docket and see what activities have transpired by your counsel and the other party/counsel. It’s also advisable to feel comfortable getting in contact with your attorney at intervals to learn the status of the matter, knowing you will likely be billed for these communications.
6. QUESTION: Just how do I select an attorney?
ANSWER: Legal concerns are as vast as those in other industries, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and are often just as complex. To safeguard your legal rights and remedies, the very best practice would be to investigate your area of need and research what legal professionals are around to work with you. A recommendation from someone you know and admire can add a personal element to the decision to hire an lawyer but really should not be the sole reason counsel is chosen. Look into the attorney’s background of schooling, expertise and area(s) of practice. Asking important questions should be urged in this process. Self-help could be empowering but can also restrict or negate your recovery. Hiring a lawyer should be contemplated with exactly the same degree of thought and consideration as that directed at the choice of a doctor, accountant, financial advisor or therapist.
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