Assuming you haven't previously, chances are that sometime in your own life you'll have to retain an attorney. With the help of my discussion with Tampa Lawyer Christina Mesa, here is a group of answers to basic as well as worthwhile questions.
1. QUESTION: How do I know if I need a lawyer or attorney?
ANSWER: If you have recently been served with a Summons and similar documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should really endeavor to seek legal assistance right away. Papers filed in court that start a lawsuit call for responses that involve particular deadlines; skipping those deadlines could compromise your defense, restrict or avoid your recovery. Some issues by statute involve a "pre-suit" period that allow you to think about the legal issues and probable resolution before a suit is filed. Similarly, seeking legal counsel immediately is recommended.
2. QUESTION: Do I have to hire an attorney 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 knowledge in the county in which the matter will be litigated is essential as that lawyer will have a comfort level with the neighborhood courthouse personnel, attorneys (likely opposing counsel) and judges. One thing to consider in retaining an attorney away from area in which the matter occurs is cost of travel time. Some attorneys don't charge for travel, others offer a reduced rate or preserve a billable rate for all work performed. Discuss that question with each lawyer consulted.
3. QUESTION: Exactly what is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the matter present at an agreed area with their counsel (if retained) and a selected mediator to try and solve all or a number of the issues involved. Mediators are to be unrelated to all participants and the litigation at issue, are to remain impartial amongst the parties and their counsel, and continue maintaining the confidential nature of the conference to inspire settlement and resolution. Usually the parties share the cost of the mediation evenly but other arrangements might be made if all parties are in agreement ahead of the conference. Mediation is normally required in every case filed in court and just before a trial is held.
4. QUESTION: What type of lawyer do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other sectors, lawyers may specialize in a specific or more than one area. Similarly, law offices may specialize, offer general legal needs or offer you services in a few precise areas of law. Trial attorneys deal with cases involving lawsuits; family law attorneys handle separation and divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and related matters; general practitioners handle almost all matters. Some areas of law are extremely technical, like bankruptcy or taxation; others are delineated by statute, as in worker's compensation. Any lawyer can go over your particular issue, determine if he/she is prepared to take care of such matters or inform you of the need to speak with another in a specialised area.
5. QUESTION: How may I be sure my attorney is handling my problems?
ANSWER: Every good attorney keeps track of his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer agreement should include a affirmation of how the attorney bills his clients - month-to-month, quarterly, etc. You may even 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 events have taken place by your lawyer and the other party/counsel. You should also feel at ease getting in contact with your lawyer at intervals to determine the status of the matter, knowing you will likely be billed for these communications.
6. QUESTION: Just how do I select an attorney at law?
ANSWER: Legal issues are as vast as those in other industries, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and usually are just as complicated. To safeguard your legal rights and remedies, the ideal practice would be to study your area of need and research what lawyers are accessible to help you. A referral from somebody you know and regard can bring a personal element to the plan to hire an law firm but shouldn't be the singular reason counsel is chosen. Research the attorney's background of training, expertise and area(s) of practice. Asking questions should be encouraged in this process. Self-help could be empowering but can also reduce or negate your recovery. Hiring a legal professional should be considered with the same degree of thought and consideration as that directed at the selection of a medical professional, accountant, financial specialist or therapist.
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