If perhaps you haven’t already, probably sometime in a lifetime you will have to seek the services of a lawyer. With the help of my interview with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, here’s a number of responses to common and important questions.
1. QUESTION: Do I need to hire an attorney or lawyer in the county where the case occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers practice in other counties and other states, depending on their licensure for the latter. Having knowledge in the county wherein the matter is being litigated is crucial as that lawyer will have a level of comfort with the county courthouse personnel, lawyers (likely opposing counsel) and judges. One matter in retaining legal counsel away from area in which the matter occurs is cost of travel time. Some attorneys do not charge for travel, others offer a decreased rate or maintain a billable rate for all work carried out. Talk about that question with each attorney consulted.
2. QUESTION: How will I make certain my lawyer is working on my problems?
ANSWER: Every good lawyer keeps track of his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer agreement should include a confirmation of how the attorney bills his clients – up front, quarterly, etc. You can also keep track of your case in some jurisidictions that provide on-line access to case dockets. If the county has that set up, you are wise to periodically review the docket and see what changes have taken place by your lawyer and the other party/counsel. In addition feel comfortable getting in touch with your attorney at intervals to ascertain the status of the matter, knowing you’ll likely be charged for these communications.
3. QUESTION: Precisely how do I pick an attorney?
ANSWER: Legal problems are as vast as those in other industries, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and usually are just as perplexing. To safeguard your rights and remedies, the very best practice would be to investigate your area of need and research what attorneys are around to work with you. A recommendation from someone you know and admire can add a personal element to the plan to hire an lawyer but should not be the only reason counsel is chosen. Look into the attorney’s background of training, experience and area(s) of practice. Asking a lot of questions should be urged in this process. Self-help could be empowering but can also limit or negate your recovery. Hiring a law firm should be contemplated with exactly the same level of thought and consideration as that given to the choice of a medical doctor, accountant, financial expert or therapist.
4. QUESTION: How do I know if I need a lawyer or attorney?
ANSWER: If you have been recently served with a Summons and associated documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should endeavor to find legal guidance right away. Documents filed in court that commence a lawsuit call for responses that involve specific deadlines; missing those deadlines could damage your defense, restrict or avoid your recovery. Some matters by statute involve a “pre-suit” period that enable you to consider the legal issues and potential resolution before a lawsuit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer as soon as possible is advised.
5. QUESTION: Exactly what is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the case present at an agreed place with their counsel (if retained) and a selected mediator to try and solve all or some of the problems involved. Mediators are to be unrelated to all parties and the litigation at issue, are to stay impartial amongst the parties and their counsel, and continue maintaining the confidential aspect of the conference to recommend settlement and resolution. Typically the parties share the fee of the mediation evenly but other arrangements might be made if all parties are in agreement in advance of the conference. Mediation is usually 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 sectors, lawyers may concentrate in a certain or more than one area. Similarly, law firms may specialize, offer general legal needs or offer services in several unique areas of law. Trial lawyers handle cases involving lawsuits; family law lawyers handle separation and divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and associated matters; general practitioners handle nearly all matters. Some areas of law are very specialized, like bankruptcy or taxation; others are delineated by statute, like worker’s compensation. Any lawyer can go over your particular issue, determine if he/she is qualified to handle such matters or advise you of the need to consult with another in a specialised area.
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