Illinois Lawyer Referrals and Legal Guidance
Top Ten Tips for Interviewing an Illinois Lawyer
Choosing the right lawyer can make all the difference. But how do you know if you’re hiring the best one? Do your research and ask tough questions. And don’t be afraid to get a second, or third, opinion.
Here are our top ten tips for interviewing a lawyer:
- Find out what kind of cases they handle, and whether they specialize in a particular area. If you want to incorporate your small business, ask what percentage of their clients are small-business owners. Generally, the higher the percentage the better. If the lawyer you’re interviewing does mostly divorce and custody but has an occasional business client, you might want to find someone else. A lawyer specializing in business law is more likely to know the latest changes in business law.
- Ask for a timeline. If you’re filing for divorce, ask when your spouse will be served, what will happen next, and how often your case will be heard in court. Ask how long they expect the entire process to take. While they won’t be able to make any promises, they should have the experience to give you a general idea.
- Ask about the judge or judges who will would be assigned to your case. An experienced attorney will know the judges’ personalities and how they tend to make decisions. If you have a bankruptcy case, you want an attorney who knows the judges in bankruptcy court. An attorney may have an advantage if the judge already knows and respects them.
- Describe all the details of your case (or even better, put the details in writing) and then ask the lawyer about strategy. For example, if you’re injured in a car accident and the person driving wasn’t the owner of the car, can you sue more than one party to increase your chances of winning? Don’t be afraid to ask a lawyer to explain their strategy. It should make sense to you.
- Ask about fees. Find out whether the attorney charges hourly or on a contingency basis (where you only pay if you win). Ask how additional costs – filing fees and other miscellaneous costs – are paid. Ask how often you will be billed and when payment is expected. Find out whether they send out detailed bills that describe each hour of work done and by whom it was completed. Most importantly, when you decide on a particular lawyer, get the fee agreement in writing right away.
- If the attorney has references, call them. A lawyer often will have a list of past clients that you can contact to find out more about how the lawyer conducts themselves and their business. If you are buying property it would be a good idea to talk to other people who have hired the attorney for similar real estate transactions. Ask the references about timeliness, communication, the result, hidden fees, attention to detail, whether they would recommend the attorney to a family member, etc.
- Ask the attorney how he or she communicates with clients. Ask how often they will be in contact with you. An attorney should always let you know when there has been a development in your case, and they should consult with you before making any decisions. Ask whether the lawyer communicates by e-mail, phone or mail, and find out how quickly they return calls (within 24 hours, within 48 hours, etc.). Make sure you feel comfortable with their approach to communication.
- Who will be working on your case? Often the attorney you meet with will not be the only one working for you. While a senior attorney may be in charge of your case, a lot of the work may be done by a younger attorney with less experience. For example, if you are suing your neighbor for damage to your property, a new associate may be drafting the lawsuit or negotiating with your neighbor’s attorney. And a paralegal may end up drafting your settlement agreement. If this is the case – and it often is at larger firms – make sure you pay lower rates for less-experienced attorneys and staff.
- Check the attorney’s professional status. You can look up any Illinois lawyer at www.iardc.org/lawyersearch.asp. This site will tell you whether they are active and authorized to practice law, how long they have been licensed, whether they have been disciplined or there is a disciplinary action pending, and whether they have malpractice insurance. (If an attorney doesn’t have malpractice insurance, you may not be able to successfully sue them if they make a mistake that hurts your case.)
- Finally, follow your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, it might be. Be wary of lawyers who promise certain results. And if you just have a “bad feeling” after interviewing a lawyer or firm, keep looking.
We believe the best way to find an attorney is by referral. Unlike most referral services, our lawyers do not pay us to recommend them, and we don’t just pick a name from a list. When you contact us, we treat you as if you were a family member asking for help. We only recommend an attorney who we believe is the best one for you.
If you need help finding the right lawyer, please do not hesitate to call us at (312) 346-5320. Your call is completely free and confidential.