Law Firms

Law Firms

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Law Firms

A brief guide to law firms

There are many circumstances under which someone may find themselves needing private legal representation. Finding an attorney to represent you could be confusing. There are many different kinds of law firms which offer different services. If you are thinking of finding an attorney, here are some things you should know.

Law firm structure

While an attorney who works by themselves is known as a “solo practitioner,” most people who retain private legal counsel will hire someone who is part of a larger business. There are two levels of law firm lawyers:

• Partners are attorneys who own a part of business and split the profits after paying their salaried employees.

• Associates are full-time employees who work for a fixed salary.

Regardless of their responsibility level, there are two basic types of attorneys:

• Litigation lawyers perform their work out of the courtroom by maintaining records, examining contracts for potential legal issues and otherwise helping guard clients against the threat of future lawsuits.

• Transactional lawyers work in the courtroom, presenting an argument on behalf of their client.

A law firm can consist of as little as two people or employ hundreds of workers. Besides lawyers, some other employees could include paralegals who perform paperwork functions, and librarians who maintain the company records.

Types of litigation

There are many different reasons you decide to find a law firm to act on your behalf. Though very large businesses may offer help with a large number of legal issues, most specialize in a few areas of the law. Some practices law firms specialize in include:

• Preventive litigation, in which a litigation lawyer reviews any paperwork you sign or initiate. This is especially helpful for business owners or people who enter into real estate transactions.

• Criminal defense lawyers help people who have been charged by a government agency or the police with an offense. 

• Personal injury lawyers help file civil lawsuits against anyone a plaintiff feels is responsible for serious bodily harm they have sustained.

• Tax lawyers help people who are filing complicated tax returns or have been accused of tax evasion.

• Bankruptcy help people filing for this status navigate the often highly technical process.

• Court-martial lawyers help defend military members who have been internally charged with a crime.

The law extends to nearly all areas of daily life. Each field requires specialized knowledge for a lawsuit to proceed successfully. Just as there is no lawyer who can knowledgeably help a client with every kind of legal issue, it is doubtful you can find a law firm which can offer you an attorney capable of defending against every issue. This lawyer should also be familiar with any applicable state and local laws that affect your case.

Finding a law firm

No professional partnership should ever be rushed into. Retaining a lawyer to represent you can often be expensive and requires you to make sure you have hired someone honest, trustworthy and competent.

Regardless of the particular circumstances of your case, the first step whenever finding a law firm that can help represent you is to determine exactly what you need help with. Once you have isolated the issue, ask friends, family or business associates to recommend a lawyer they have worked with who specializes in this are of the law. If you cannot obtain such a referral, a local or state bar association may also be able to refer you to a law firm.

Rely upon referrals rather than advertising before scheduling an initial consultation with any lawyer. Many law firms maintain websites, some of which contain hyperbolic language or make excessive guarantees about their services. Do not trust any offers made in advertising or in person that seem too good to be true. 

Hiring a lawyer

It may be necessary to schedule meetings with attorneys at multiple law firms before you find someone you feel comfortable retaining to represent you. Prepare for any initial consultation by assembling all documentation that may have a bearing on your case, such as:

• Medical records

• Financial records such as tax returns

• Contracts and business agreements

• Names and contact information of witnesses if relevant

Any lawyer you talk to will ask many questions about your case. Answer all such queries honestly and with much detail as possible. In turn, when you arrive at any law firm, you should have your own list of questions to ask, including:

• What is your level of expertise with my kind of case?

• If you are not qualified to represent me, can you refer me to another law firm specializing in my kind of legal issues?

• What level of responsibility do you have?

• How many people will be involved in handling my case?

• If I need to get in touch with you, who should I contact at your law firm?

• How long can I expect my case to take to achieve a resolution?

Legal fees

During your first meeting with any lawyer, it is crucial to find out what expenses retaining their services will leave you liable for. Depending on how complicated your case is, you could be charged a flat fee for a simple service. More commonly, many attorneys bill their clients by the hour. Make sure to obtain a detailed, written estimate of what you can expect to pay. An attorney must be able to clearly explain any charges you do not understand.

If you are filing litigation designed to obtain a financial settlement, such as compensation for an injury caused by another person, some law firms may agree to provide their services in return for a percentage of what you are awarded. However, you could still charged for expenses related in preparing for the trial, such as filing paperwork with the court or hiring expert witnesses. Some law firms may be willing to advance the cost of some or all these expenses.

 

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