Assuming you haven’t previously, chances are that sometime in your life you’ll need to employ a lawyer. With the help of my interview with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, here is a listing of responses to very common as well as important questions.
1. QUESTION: How do I know if I will need a legal professional?
ANSWER: If you have been recently served with a Summons and similar documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should endeavor to seek legal advice right away. Papers filed in court that start a lawsuit require responses that involve specific deadlines; missing out on those deadlines could damage your defense, limit or avoid your recovery. Some matters by statute involve a “pre-suit” period of time that allow you to consider the legal issues and potential resolution before a lawsuit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer immediately is advised.
2. QUESTION: Do I have to hire an attorney in the county where the problem occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers or attorneys practice in other counties and other states, depending on their licensure for the latter. Having knowledge in the county in which the matter will be litigated is crucial as that attorney will have a level of comfort with the neighborhood courthouse personnel, attorneys (likely opposing lawyer) and judges. One consideration in retaining a lawyer away from area in which the matter takes place is cost of travel time. Some lawyers don’t charge for travel, others offer a lowered rate or preserve a billable rate for all work carried out. Clarify that question with each attorney consulted.
3. QUESTION: Precisely what is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the matter present at an agreed location with their counsel (if retained) and a selected mediator to try and solve all or some of the problems involved. Mediators are to be unrelated to all participants and the litigation at issue, are to remain impartial amongst the parties and their lawyer, and continue maintaining the confidential aspect of the conference to inspire settlement and resolution. Usually the parties share the cost of the mediation equally but other arrangements can be made if all parties are in agreement in advance of the conference. Mediation is typically required in just about every case filed in court and prior to a trial is held.
4. QUESTION: What type of law firm do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other sectors, attorneys may specialize in a certain or more than one area. Similarly, law offices may specialize, provide general legal needs or offer services in several precise areas of law. Trial lawyers deal with cases involving lawsuits; family law lawyers handle separation and divorce, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and related matters; general practitioners handle most matters. Some areas of law are very technical, like bankruptcy or taxation; others are delineated by statute, such as worker’s compensation. Any attorney can discuss your specific issue, determine if he/she is qualified to handle such matters or advise you of the necessity to consult with another in a specialised area.
5. QUESTION: How may I make sure my lawyer is resolving my issues?
ANSWER: Every good lawyer monitors his time (fees) and expenditures (costs). Your retainer agreement should include a confirmation of how the attorney bills his clients – once a month, quarterly, etc. You may also track your case in some jurisidictions that provide on-line accessibility to case dockets. If the county has that set up, you are wise to occasionally review the docket and see what activities have taken place by your counsel and the other party/counsel. It’s also advisable to feel at ease contacting your attorney at intervals to ascertain the status of the matter, knowing you’ll likely be charged for these communications.
6. QUESTION: Precisely how do I select an attorney at law?
ANSWER: Legal matters are as vast as those in other sectors, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and may be just as perplexing. To protect your legal rights and remedies, the best practice is to study your area of need and research what lawyers are around to work with you. A referral from somebody you know and admire can bring a personal element to the consideration to hire an attorney but shouldn’t be the sole reason counsel is selected. Look into the lawyer’s background of education, practical experience and area(s) of practice. Asking basic questions should be urged in this process. Self-help can be empowering but may also restrict or negate your recovery. Hiring a law firm should be contemplated with the exact same degree of thought and consideration as that directed at the choice of a doctor, accountant, financial advisor or therapist.
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