Legal HelpYou may need a lawyer to help you with common problems, such as:
- Divorce and other domestic matters
- An accident
- When buying or selling a home
- When experiencing tax problems
- When executing a contract
- When executing a will
- When going into business
The lawyer is your representative and advocate. A lawyer is an officer of the court authorized to explain and deal with legal matters. A lawyer must have a law degree and three years of education in an accredited law school.
A lawyer must also pass the written examination by the state board or bar examiners. A lawyer’s job is to prepare documents, counsel, and appear in court if needed.
Many people choose a lawyer based on the recommendation of relatives, friends, or someone whose judgment they trust. Often, those persons can refer you to someone who has provided similar legal services for them. Others look to their local or state bar associations, courts or banks for a referral to a lawyer who can handle their type of legal matter. However you go about finding someone, there are things you need to know before hiring a lawyer.
- Is the lawyer in good standing with the bar? Does she have a good reputation in the legal community?
- How much experience does the lawyer have with cases like yours?
- If there are other lawyers in the firm, who will have ultimate responsibility for handling your case? Will it be the lawyer you consult or someone else in the firm? (If it is another attorney, you should consider all of these questions as they relate to that other attorney.)
- Is the lawyer’s office accessible to you? Is it on a bus line? Is there adequate parking? Can your needs be accommodated if you are a person with a disability?
- Does the lawyer have adequate office staff who can respond to you if the lawyer is temporarily unavailable?
- Is the lawyer willing to offer you a free initial consultation and an estimate of what more extensive services may cost should you require them?
- Does the lawyer carry malpractice insurance?
- Does the lawyer provide a written fee agreement that is easy for you to understand?
- Does the lawyer provide itemized bills? What payment methods are available to you?
- How does the lawyer handle client complaints or other disagreements?
The lawyer’s fee
The advice your lawyer gives you may be based on services after your meetings. These services may take many hours and may involve the work of legal secretaries, legal assistants, or lawyer associates on the time required. The fee also includes operating expenses and overhead, which takes a significant part of the lawyer’s fee.
The lawyer’s reputation and specialty are also considerations. Certain fees depend on the results of a legal action. An example would be an injury settlement resulting from an accident. Many cases will require retainer fee or initial deposit on services rendered The fee should be discussed in the first interview. It is better to use a lawyer preventatively before a problem gets worse.
Further information and referrals
Current up-to-date information on legal topics is available on the bar association referral line at 1-800-945-9722 or the Web site www.wsba.org. Another website, www.washingtonlawhelp.org, provides extensive self-help material for the public. The local bar association’s referral line is 253-383-3432.
Paralegals are also available at lesser cost. They can prepare documents and take care of many situations where extensive court action is not required. They can be found in the yellow pages.
You may also call Pacific Employee Assistance for more information at 253-697-8350 or 877-223-7428.