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Hiring a Lawyer? Learn What to Expect at Every Step of the Way

Updated February 26, 2024 | By Jon Noyes

The process can seem overwhelming if you’ve never hired a lawyer. That’s why we’ve compiled everything you need to ensure you choose the best attorney for your case. Use our checklists, tips, and examples to ensure you leave no stone unturned–and feel confident about your final decision.

How Do I Know If I Need a Lawyer? 

Before you start searching for help, you may wonder how to decide if you need an attorney. Lawsuits can be expensive and time-consuming, so you’ll want to guarantee your efforts yield the best possible results. Suppose you are the victim of personal injury or medical malpractice. In that case, a lawyer can help you determine whether your case is likely to succeed.  

How Do I Find the Right Lawyer for My Case?

Finding the right lawyer can be pivotal in determining the outcome of your case. They should have expertise in the right area of law, excellent communication skills, and dedication to successfully resolving your case. 

How to Find the Right Lawyer for Your Case

Follow these steps to find the best attorney for your circumstances. 

1 – Research Lawyers in Your Area

You may need help figuring out where to start when searching for a personal injury lawyer.  A good rule of thumb is to ask friends and family for recommendations. You can also search online for attorneys in your area and read reviews their previous clients have left. Local bar associations also provide recommendations. Whether you’re reading reviews or talking to someone you trust, here are a few questions to keep in mind: 

  • Did the client feel like they had good communication with their lawyer? 
  • Did they think they got a fair settlement? 
  • Did they understand their attorneys’ recommendations throughout the process? 
  • Did they feel like their lawyer understood and addressed their concerns? 

2 – Contact Lawyers That May Be Able to Help

Once you have narrowed down your best options, contact their offices. Someone at the office will typically ask you brief questions about your case.  They may use this information to determine whether they may be a good fit for your case and, if so, which attorney (if they are part of a group) you should work with. 

Tip: If the attorney you contact is not a good fit for your case or is unavailable, you can ask them to recommend another lawyer in your area. Most attorneys have working relationships with other lawyers. They may recommend someone else who can help. 

However, if the attorney believes they may be a good fit for your case, they will likely set up an initial consultation. 

When you contact a law firm for the first time, don’t be afraid to ask questions: 

  • Does your law firm have experience with cases like mine? 
  • Should I bring anything with me to my initial consultation?
  • Where will the initial consultation take place? 
  • Is there a charge for the initial consultation? 

3 – Attend a Free Consultation

Many personal injury attorneys, including WKW, offer a free initial consultation. During this consultation, they will discuss your case with you and briefly review any documentation you bring. 

What to Bring to an Initial Consultation

When you make your appointment for a consultation, the law firm may give you a specific list of items to bring. You will want to bring any key documents and information that will help your attorney understand your case. This may include the following: 

  • Any relevant legal documents, such as court orders, contracts, or correspondence
  • A detailed timeline of events
  • Bills, invoices, or financial statements
  • Photographic evidence
  • Medical documentation or imaging (such as X-rays)

What Questions to Ask During Your Initial Consultation

When you meet your attorney for the first time, it’s helpful to prepare a list of questions to ask a lawyer ahead of time. These are some of the most common questions people ask during the initial consultation: 

  • Do you have experience with cases like mine? 
  • What other attorneys or staff members will assist with my case? 
  • Do you believe I have a strong case? 
  • How long do you think it will take to resolve my case? 
  • Who is the best person to contact for updates or questions about my case? 

Give yourself time before your appointment to review your case, and write down any other questions or concerns you’d like to discuss. 

4 – Sign a Contract With Your Attorney

Once you’ve chosen your attorney, the next step is to formalize the arrangement with a contract. This contract is called a retainer agreement. It outlines the terms and conditions of your representation. A retainer agreement may include: 

  • The scope of representation
  • Fee structure
  • Billing procedures
  • Attorney’s responsibilities
  • Client’s responsibilities 

When you review your contract with your attorney, make sure you understand what you are signing. Ensure that your contract accurately reflects the terms you previously discussed. Ask your attorney to explain any parts of the contract you don’t understand. 

How Much Will it Cost to Hire a Lawyer? 

The total cost to hire a lawyer will depend on several factors. The complexity of your case, the amount of time it takes, and even your location can determine your total cost. Fortunately, if you are pursuing a personal injury case, your attorney will typically charge on a contingency basis. This arrangement means you are only required to pay your attorney after you win your case. 

Do I Have to Pay Anything Up Front? 

You will usually receive a free consultation when you meet with your attorney for the first time.  After that meeting, you can determine whether you want to hire the attorney. If the attorney agrees to charge on a contingency basis, you will only be required to pay something once you win your case.  At that time, you will pay the lawyer a percentage of the damages the court awards you. You will not have to pay anything if you do not win your case. 

An Example of a Contingency Fee Structure

Consider Sarah, a hypothetical client involved in a severe car accident. She wants to recover damages from the driver responsible for her accident. So, she researches reputable attorneys in her area and schedules a free consultation. Sarah hires the lawyer on a contingency fee basis, in this case 33%. She only needs to pay the lawyer any money once her case is resolved.

The attorney diligently pursues Sarah’s case, resulting in a settlement of $100,000. Because she won, Sarah will now pay the attorney 33% of her settlement, which amounts to $33,000. 

The contingency fee structure benefits are clearly demonstrated in this arrangement. Sarah was able to secure $67,000 for her damages without worrying about upfront legal expenses. This structure ensures a fair outcome while compensating her attorney for their litigation expertise and efforts. 

Next Steps

Your attorney can proceed with your case now that you’ve signed your contract. Since every case is different, it’s a good idea to ask your attorney what the next steps are. Usually, at this stage, your attorney will begin to gather and review evidence in greater depth. Be sure to stay in contact with your attorney so you know what the next step is. They may need you to supply them with additional information or documentation. 

Final Checklist

Simplify the process of hiring an attorney and feel confident you’re hiring the right person for the job with our final checklist:

  • Ask friends and family for recommendations
  • Research lawyers in your area and read reviews
  • Make a list of your top choices for attorneys in your area
  • Contact an attorney to set up your initial consultation
  • Attend the consultation, bringing up any questions or concerns about your case
  • Decide whether you want to sign a contract with this attorney or interview another lawyer
  • Review and sign your retainer agreement
  • Stay in contact with your attorney for next steps

Contact an Attorney Today

If someone else’s negligence has injured you or a loved one, contact the attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you need to restore your life. Fill out our online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Contact Us

Let WKW put our experience to work for you. Contact us for your free case evaluation.


Or, call us today at (317) 920-6400

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