General Law FAQs
“Jury: A group of twelve people chosen to decide who has the best lawyer.”
Hiring a lawyer is a business decision. Compare how much will you spend to what will you receive if successful. Remember, there’s always a chance you’ll be unsuccessful, so incorporate a risk factor into your decision. We recommend that you have an “upside” or “downside” of three to four times your projected attorney’s fees before you choose to hire a lawyer.
If you don’t have a reasonable chance of recovering several times more than your attorney will cost you, either:
- Let it go;
- Do it yourself; or
- Retain a lawyer on a “flat fee” basis, and get the fee agreement in writing.
Many legal matters (wills, probate, divorce, handling your own medium-to-large insurance claims) are beyond what the average person can handle or wants to take on. When possible, hire a lawyer instead of doing it yourself.
If you must to go to court (i.e. you have been sued or the loss is too big to ignore), then hiring a lawyer is almost always the right answer. Going to court without a lawyer puts you at extreme risk. Simply not knowing the rules can result in losing, or worse yet, a judgment against you.
To get started, set a brief meeting with a good lawyer. Tell him or her your situation. He’ll tell you whether or not you need him. After you’ve heard his opinion, leave his office, mull over what you’ve heard, and if you feel he’s correct, pay him to represent you. With a good lawyer, the money you save should far outweigh the money you pay in attorney’s fees.
Ask yourself the following questions: Are you fighting your lawyer as hard as you’re fighting the other side? Do you call repeatedly, knowing your lawyer probably won’t return your call? When your attorney tells you that he or she is going to do something, are chances good that it won’t get done? Do you feel just as confused and clueless after you speak with your lawyer as you did before you called?
Are hearings and depositions set up for weeks, but you find out only a couple of days before you’re due in court? Is your “file” a bunch of papers crammed into a manila folder in no discernable order? Are lots of things going on in your case over weeks and months but you only find out about them by accident long after they’ve occurred?
These are all signs it may be time for a change of counsel. At minimum, you should seek a second opinion.
Spend the money for competent counsel. A lawyer who is not doing his job will cost you far more than the new lawyer.
Talk to friends and family who have experienced similar problems. Look for someone who regularly practices in the county where your case will be.
Meet with several attorneys. Tell each what is going on—then ask questions. Trust your instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t hire him.
A good lawyer should meet the following criteria:
- Can answer your questions;
- Gives you answers that you can understand;
- Has answers that make sense;
- Tells you his retainer amount up front;
- Is not afraid to charge a high enough retainer to do the job right;
- Has sufficient staff to keep your case moving forward;
- Answers your phone calls (personally or through his staff) reasonably promptly;
- Sends you copies of everything he does or that he receives;
- Routinely sends you itemized bills that clearly reflect his work (unless he’s working on a contingency basis); and
- Is completely upfront about what’s going on with your case, and isn’t afraid to tell you the bad news along with the good
In Texas, there must be a specific statute allowing you to recover attorney’s fees for the type of case you have. Examples of when you can recover are: breach of contract cases, family law cases, and deceptive trade practice cases involving consumers. Examples of when you generally cannot recover fees are: negligence cases, car wrecks, and personal injury claims.
Additionally, remember that being entitled to sue for attorney’s fees and actually recovering attorney’s fees are two different things. The whole issue is often an emotional one for both sides. It is very difficult to get the other side to agree to pay your fees voluntarily. Often the only method of recovery is going to trial and having the court order them to do so—which requires incurring more attorney’s fees and carries the risk of an adverse verdict. At trial, the court has the discretion of awarding all, part, or none of the attorney’s fees you incurred.