What is your overall experience and your experience with cases like mine?
It's important to know how long a lawyer has practiced and whether he or she has handled similar cases. Lawyers, like doctors, tend to concentrate in certain specialties. You want to satisfy yourself that your lawyer is familiar with this area of the law and has had significant experience handling similar cases. You would no more want to hire a lawyer who doesn't handle similar cases than you would want your podiatrist to clear your blocked artery.
What are the potential results of my case?
It's important to set your expectations appropriately as early in the process as possible. If there is a chance you could lose your case, you should be aware of that possibility. You want as few surprises as possible. Be wary of any lawyer who guarantees victory or who talks only of the successful outcomes.
Do I have any other means to resolve this matter?
Understanding all your options is important. The best lawyers will recommend other options if those options are best for you, including those that don't involve hiring a lawyer. For example, if a simple do-it-yourself remedy exists, such as for collecting an overdue debt or back child support, a good lawyer will recommend that option to you. The worst lawyers care only for generating fees and will generally present their services as the only option.
How long does this type of matter take to resolve?
This is another important question that helps you set your expectations. Legal matters frequently take far longer than the average layperson realizes. If this matter will take longer than think it will, you want to know it ahead of time.
What are your rates and billing procedures?
Understanding what and how you are to be charged is obviously important. Billing procedures and rates are a common point of disagreement between lawyers and clients. The more you know ahead of time, the better off you'll be. Again, this is another one of those questions designed to eliminate disagreements later on. You'll want to know, for example, whether your lawyer will bill you monthly or only after all services are rendered.
What do you estimate the total bill, with fees and expenses, will be?
In many cases, a lawyer cannot give you an exact estimate because the fees depend upon the time involved, which cannot be determined exactly until the services are performed. Every lawyer, however, should be able at least to give you a ballpark estimate. If your fee arrangement is be hourly, you should also ask your lawyer to notify you when he or she realizes that the estimate is likely to be exceeded.
Could I have less–experienced staff handle some of my case to lower my costs?
The best lawyers don't need to be asked this question because they should be trying to keep costs down wherever possible. You should still ask this question, however, at least to let your lawyer know that you're aware that he or she can reduce costs by using lower-cost staff.
Are all our conversations completely confidential?
Lawyers are duty-bound to keep conversations with their clients confidential. This can still be an important question, however, because there are issues around when the attorney-client relationship begins. You should discuss with the lawyer if there are any situations when the confidentiality doesn't apply. For example, if you meet with a lawyer, but don't retain his or her services, were the conversations confidential?
This IS NOT intended to be legal advice or in any way replace the advice and judgment of a licensed lawyer. Every case and situation is unique and only a licensed lawyer can offer legal advice which is appropriate for your situation