What Questions Should I Ask My New Lawyer?

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If you find yourself in a legal dispute, involving anything from personal injury to breach of contract, you should choose an attorney who is prepared to go to trial on your behalf. Many cases are settled out of court, but if yours should end up in a trial, you want a business litigation law firm with attorneys who are prepared to aggressively argue your case in front of a jury.

Your defective product lawsuit will likely be settled without going to court, but you want your personal injury lawyer to be absolutely prepared if it goes before a jury. Ask your lawyer these questions to gauge how committed he or she is to preparing for a trial, even if the problem is expected to be resolved without one.

1. How Many Jury Trials (as Opposed to Bench Trials) Have You Tried?

A bench trial is argued before a judge, with no jury. In a bench trial the judge rules on matters of law and procedure, deciding credibility of evidence. By contrast, a jury trial has a jury made up of members of the community, and they are the fact finders, rendering their verdict based on the evidence on each side. In a jury trial, the judge handles questions of law and procedure, but the jury makes the decisions. Preparing for a jury trial is different than preparing for a bench trial, and you should ask your lawyer specifically about his or her experience with jury trials.

2. How Much Experience Do You Have as Lead Counsel?

The lawyer you hire from a business litigation law firm may have participated in several trials, but has he or she acted as lead or solo counsel? Your real estate dispute may not seem like a big deal compared to business cases that make the news, but to you the outcome is very significant. You want someone to represent you who has argued cases like yours as lead counsel.

3. Tell Me About Your Experience With Cases Like Mine

If you have been injured by a defective product, you want a personal injury lawyer, but more importantly, you want one who has specific experience with the defective product lawsuit. Ask your prospective counsel about his or her experience with cases similar to yours. An experienced lawyer can tell you that there can be big differences between a personal injury lawsuit due to medical malpractice and one involving, for example, an injury suffered on a cruise ship.

4. In a Case Like Mine, How Many Lawyers Would You Expect to Send to Court?

The answer to this question is important because it affects how much your legal representation costs. If multiple lawyers attend court, take depositions, or participate in other relevant proceedings, your legal expenses can go up significantly. There may be times when having more than one lawyer is necessary, but you should talk about this possibility at the beginning of your business relationship with your law firm.

5. Who Exactly Will Handle My Case and Does He or She Have Trial Experience?

It is possible that your initial consultation with a law firm will be with a partner, but an associate will actually handle your case. This is fine as long as that associate has the necessary experience to handle your case with skill. You should meet this person as soon as possible to evaluate whether you have good rapport and are comfortable sharing the most intricate details of your case. Any law firm associate who handles your case should be thoroughly prepared for a trial even if the possibility of one is small.