How to Select an Attorney : Interview Checklist

Educational Background: 

            1.  Undergraduate

            2.  Law school

Professional Background:

            1.  Date admitted to the bar

            2.  Previous employment history

            3.  Time in current position

Professional Experience:

            1.  Areas of practice that attorney has been involved in

            2.  Percentage of attorney's practice that each area equals

            3.  The extent of attorney's experience in each area


            1.  See the What to Expect Section. Be sure you have a complete understanding of what the retainer agreement entails including:

a.    What the attorney fees will be and how they will be calculated. Are the attorney fees hourly or contingent? If the fees are hourly, are they structured differently depending on who is working on the file? A senior attorney often bills at a higher rate than an associate.

b.    Will the attorney handle the matter should an appeal be necessary? Some attorneys do appeals and some do not. If they will handle the appeal, how does that effect the fees due to the attorney. Remember, whether an attorney handles an appeal or not should not be a deciding factor on whether to retain them or not. It is important only so you have an idea of what the potential total costs may be.
c.    The retainer agreement must be in writing and you should be provided with a copy.
d.    If the matter involves an accident involving personal injury and you retain an attorney within 5 days of the occurrence you do have the right to change your mind within 10 days of executing the retainer agreement. This is regulated by statue. The attorney should advise you of this. You can view the pertinent language of this statute by clicking here.
Miscellaneous Items:

            1.  How does the firm handle the matter:

a.    Will the attorney himself or herself be handling the matter?
b.    Will the matter be handled by an associate. If so, do not be afraid to inquire into the associates credentials and experience. Many firms have a high rate of turnover among the associates and this can lead to a situation where the attorneys working on your file are newer and have less experience than one would expect.
c.    How will you be informed of the progress of the matter?
d.    Does the attorney himself or herself take time to speak to you if you call with a question? Does the attorney return their own telephone messages or do they delegate? This is really an inquiry to get a sense of how available the attorney is to respond to you. It can be frustrating to be out of contact with your attorney.

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