Helpful Tips and Finding and Hiring a Lawyer: A Richard T. Sutherland Podcast
In this podcast with attorney Richard Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas answers the questions most people ask about how to go about finding a lawyer. This blog article serves as a summary of key points. Anyone who needs a lawyer should listen to this podcast and learn the questions and answers about the process of finding a lawyer, meeting with them for a consultation and about elements of the attorney-client relationship.
If you needed to hire a lawyer, how would you go about it?
Financial professionals such as CPAs are also good sources to finding lawyers. They might give you a referral to call a lawyer they know, like and trust. If the lawyer, you call works in a different area of law practice they can make a recommendation and give you the name and number for a lawyer who can help you.
What if no one you know has hired a lawyer or they didn’t like the person they hired?
One way to find a lawyer is to ask family and friends if they know any lawyers and find out what their thoughts were about the person they hired.
Many people search the Internet and find an attorney in Google search results. If you are looking for a lawyer in a specific practice area you can search that way, for example, “divorce lawyer Wichita County” or more specifically for divorce, child support, child custody or adoption.
You can also use some attorney specific sites such as Lawyers.com or Martindale Avvo where you can find attorneys who are rated by their peers. For example, an AV rated lawyer is deemed to have the highest legal ability and ethical qualifications. Simply search in the filed of law you need a lawyer and where.
What if the attorney I found doesn’t have any recommendations by former clients or has been given poor recommendations, should I avoid that lawyer?
Unfortunately, poor online reviews of lawyers may be a result of a disgruntled client who failed to achieve what may have been a completely unrealistic goal. Worse, it may be a review by the spouse of the lawyer’s client who didn’t like the result and blames his or her spouse’s lawyer for the outcome. Worse yet, the negative review may be placed by the other lawyer.
Note that a lawyer cannot use their client’s name for a review without the client’s express permissions since the lawyer is ethically required to keep the client’s identity confidential.
Are all initial consultations free?
No, all initial consultations are not free and there are reasons why. A lawyer’s advice, as another famous attorney, Abraham Lincoln once observed, is their stock and trade. Giving their trade away for free makes no sense. Lawyer’s advice has value. In a consultation, when the client gives the lawyer confidential information, the lawyer is disqualified from representing anyone ese in their case. So, if the husband has a consultation, lawyer is disqualified from talking to the wife because of the attorney client privilege with the husband.
Unfortunately, there is a common practice by some lawyers, encouraging clients to go and speak with other lawyers to disqualify them from being hired by the other party to the divorce. Some call this an “X out.” So, if husband hires a lawyer and is worried the other lawyers in town might represent wife, they might encourage husband to go talk to the competition law firms so they can’t represent his wife.
Consultations have value. Some lawyers provide a minimum period of free advice such as 30 minutes or less for consultation and other lawyers agree they won’t charge a fee unless the person doesn’t hire them. If the lawyer is hired, the consultation will be charged since the lawyer obtained information necessary to represent the client.
How do I know whether I am going to be charged?
Ask the lawyer when you make the consultation appointment.
I don’t think it’s fair for the lawyer to charge me when all I did was ask him questions.
Lawyers provide legal advice, most often in the form of answers to questions. As you expect to pay a doctor for their advice, you should appreciate paying a lawyer for theirs as well.
What should I expect when I meet a new lawyer?
Prepare a list of questions. You should be comfortable talking to the lawyer about your questions and receiving their response and advice. The lawyer may describe the substance and procedure involved in their situation. If you do not understand, always ask for clarification.
There are no guarantees about the outcome of any case, and you should beware of anyone who claims they can guarantee an outcome. Your lawyer should explain fee and billing practices, so you understand what to expect when you receive a bill for attorney’s fees and costs.
What is a retainer?
A retainer is an amount of money determined by the lawyer as a deposit against costs and fees. There is no a standard retainer and every lawyer may determine their retainer agreement with a client. Filing fees, such as the $630.00 filing fee in Wichita County for a restraining order case, can be paid from the retainer.
As the lawyer works on your case and tracks their time, they apply the hours they work against an hourly rate and bill your retainer. The retainer may need replenishment as the case continues. No lawyer or client knows how long a case will take or what it may cost since there are so many things that can happen.
What is a non-refundable retainer?
Non-refundable retainers are fees paid in advance to secure a lawyer’s services and compensate them for the loss of opportunity to accept other employment. Listen to this podcast and learn why the better rule for practice for family law attorneys is to avoid having non-refundable retainers, for reasons including ethics and professional conduct rules.
I don’t really have a lot of money to hire an attorney, could he represent me on a contingent fee basis?
No, contingent fees are not allowed in divorce and family law matters. It is prohibited. Richard T. Sutherland explains the unique conflict and conflict of interest between a lawyer and client if contingent fees were to be allowed in family law matters such as custody and adoption.
Can my attorney refuse to release my file to me if I haven’t completely paid him?
No, they cannot hold your file hostage for payment. Doing so may result in damage or prejudice to your rights, prohibited by Texas rules of conduct for lawyers.
I want my mother, father, sister, brother, best friend or someone to come with me when I first consult with an attorney, is that permissible?
Yes, it is common. First the attorney must explain the attorney-client privilege, that it belongs to the client, not the attorney. Richard T. Sutherland routinely explains attorney-client privilege issues and situations to clients who can make an informed decision whether to allow another to be present during their consultation and why they may be exposed to potential danger. Listen to him explain on the podcast.
Are all conversations between an attorney and a client legally protected?
No. If the client were to tell the lawyer that the client intends to engage in criminal behavior after leaving the lawyer’s office, the lawyer is required to report to law enforcement the client’s intent to commit a crime.
There are other times a lawyer must report the abuse or neglect of a child or indecency with a child. Also, changes in testimony can result in the client withdrawing from the case in open court if the client has told the attorney about some act or event and when testifying in court and denying the act or event occurred.
What if I want to change attorneys? How do I do that?
Write your attorney a letter letting him or her know he or she is discharged immediately as your attorney. If you hired someone new, as the new attorney to prepare a motion to substitute counsel and an order of substitution and to send the motion and order to your former attorney for signature. Your former attorney should be given a reasonable amount of time to copy your file before returning original documents to you which must include his notes.
Do I even need an Attorney? Can’t I just get some forms from the Internet and represent myself?
You are not required to have an attorney in Texas. If your case is going to court, you should be familiar not only with the Texas Family Code but also with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and the Texas Rules of Evidence. There is not a separate set of rules and procedures for people who represent themselves and no one at the courthouse can give you legal advice.
In this podcast, Richard T. Sutherland explains in detail the pitfalls of trying to do your own divorce using information and forms you find on the Internet.
If you say “Help! I need a lawyer!”, call The Law Office of Richard T. Sutherland at (940) 691-2100.
Located in Wichita Falls, Richard T. Sutherland is an experienced divorce and family lawyer for divorce, child custody, adoption and other marriage and divorce matters. Contact him from the website or call the office at (940) 691-2100. Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.