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Tips for Hiring (and Talking with) an Attorney

If you need to hire a lawyer, consider the following suggestions.  Also see the California State Bar’s informational pamphlet, “How Can I find and Hire the Right Lawyer?

  • Always be as honest, candid, and thorough as possible about the facts of your case.  The more your attorney knows, the more s/he can help you.
  • Ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
  • Approach an attorney about your case as soon as you think you may need one. Not acting quickly may limit your legal rights and options.
  • Find out how your attorney expects to be paid. Attorneys’ fees and payment options vary. Make sure you understand what your fee agreement contains.
  • Educate yourself in advance (if possible) by doing research on the topic for which you need legal help.  Try starting with, a reliable publisher of do-it-yourself legal guides.  If you’re a currently registered Berkeley student, make an appointment with Student Legal Services to learn more about the relevant issues.
  • Be careful when bringing another person to your legal counseling sessions. Attorney-client communications are confidential, and you can jeopardize the confidential nature of those communications by bringing a third party. Your attorney can explain these considerations in greater depth.
  • Bring any and all documents, letters, copies of e-mails, and other information related to your case to your first counseling session.
  • Check your prospective attorney’s credentials and State Bar history. In California, you confirm that an attorney is in good standing, and view any record of discipline, with the “Attorney Search” feature on the State Bar’s Web site.
  • Consider all the options your attorney presents. Not all may seem desirable at first, but take ample time to evaluate the choices and legal consequences explained by your attorney.  As noted above, ask questions if you don’t understand something.
  • If possible, try to interview more than one attorney, in order to explore different perspectives on your case, compare fees, and find someone with whom you have a good rapport.
  • Call ahead for an appointment. Attorneys seldom (if ever) see walk-in clients. This is largely so they can be prepared to discuss your case and use your time wisely.