In the event that you have not before now, chances are that sometime in your lifetime you’ll need to retain an attorney. With the help of my consultation with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, below is a list of answers to very common and important questions.
1. QUESTION: How do I know if I need a lawyer or attorney?
ANSWER: If you have been served with a Summons and associated documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should endeavor to find legal guidance right away. Papers filed in court that start a lawsuit require responses that involve exact deadlines; missing those deadlines could compromise your defense, limit or avoid your recovery. Some matters by statute involve a “pre-suit” period of time that enable you to consider the legal issues and possible resolution before a lawsuit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer as soon as possible is recommended.
2. QUESTION: Do I have to hire an attorney in the county where the issue occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers practice in other counties and other states, depending on their licensure for the latter. Having knowledge in the county in which the matter is being litigated is crucial as that lawyer will have a level of comfort with the community courthouse personnel, attorneys (likely opposing lawyer) and judges. One thing to consider in retaining an attorney outside the area wherein the matter occurs is cost of journey time. Some lawyers don’t charge for travel, others offer a lowered rate or preserve a billable rate for all work performed. Discuss that question with each lawyer consulted.
3. QUESTION: What is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the issue present at an agreed place with their counsel (if retained) and a chosen mediator to try and resolve all or a number of the issues involved. Mediators should be unrelated to all participants and the litigation at issue, are to remain impartial between the parties and their counsel, and maintain the confidential structure of the conference to encourage settlement and resolution. Typically 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 usually required in just about every case filed in court and before a trial is held.
4. QUESTION: What type of lawyer do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other businesses, attorneys may specialise in a specific or more than one area. Similarly, law firms may specialize, offer general legal needs or provide 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 extremely complex, like bankruptcy or taxation; others are delineated by statute, as in worker’s compensation. Any attorney can discuss your specific issue, determine if he/she is prepared to handle such matters or inform you of the need to consult with another in a specialized area.
5. QUESTION: How can I be certain my lawyer is resolving my issues?
ANSWER: Every good attorney keeps track of his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer agreement should include a confirmation of how the lawyer bills his clients – once a month, quarterly, etc. You may also track your case in some jurisidictions that supply on-line accessibility to case dockets. If the county has that set up, you are wise to periodically review the docket and see what activities have transpired by your lawyer and the other party/counsel. It’s also advisable to feel at ease getting in contact with your lawyer at intervals to learn the status of the matter, knowing you’ll likely be charged for these communications.
6. QUESTION: Just how do I select an attorney?
ANSWER: Legal matters are as vast as those in other industries, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and usually are just as complicated. To protect your legal rights and remedies, the ideal practice would be to investigate your area of need and research what legal professionals are around to assist you. A recommendation from somebody you know and regard can bring a personal element to the decision to hire an attorney but shouldn’t be the only reason counsel is selected. Research the attorney’s background of schooling, practical experience and area(s) of practice. Asking questions should be urged in this process. Self-help can be strengthening but can also reduce or negate your recovery. Hiring a lawyer should be considered with the exact same degree of thought and consideration as that directed at the pick of a medical professional, accountant, financial expert or therapist.
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