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HOW TO HIRE A GOOD ATTORNEY
How to Find a Good Attorney, How To Find A Good Lawyer
Whether you want to litigate an issue, draft a contract,
or are just looking for legal advice about your situation, it
is a good idea to speak with a lawyer. An attorney can identify
important legal consequences that may affect you, provide you
with options, and give you advice about your next course of action.
In many cases, even a brief meeting with an attorney can set your
mind at ease and move you towards a positive resolution. Choosing
an attorney may seem like a daunting task, but this guide outlines
steps to make the process manageable.
Things to Remember When Hiring an Attorney
There are some key issues you may want to consider
as you begin your search for an attorney. First, it is to your
benefit to contact an attorney as soon as possible after your
legal issue arises. If you wait to contact attorney, you could
miss important deadlines. Next, develop a clear understanding
about what you hope to accomplish by meeting with the attorney
”take a moment to identify and write down your goals. Finally,
you will want to become familiar with different billing methods
that attorneys use. Hiring an attorney can be expensive, and understanding
the ways that attorneys may charge for their services is good
way to keep your costs down. This guide will help educate you
on these and other important factors when it comes time to making
a final decision on who to hire.
Identify Your Goals
It will be helpful for you to keep specific goals
in mind as you begin your search for an attorney. Knowing what
you are looking to achieve will help to narrow your search for
an attorney and enable both you and the attorney to focus on the
most important issues. You will avoid spending time (and money)
on extraneous issues, concentrate your attorney's efforts on what
is important to you, and clearly discuss a strategy for meeting
the goals. Depending on your situation, some goals you might want
to accomplish by meeting with an attorney are:
- Review of a contract
- Evaluation of a legal claim against you
- Evaluation of your legal claim against another
- Legal advice about the consequences of a particular course
- Creation of a will or trust document
- Formation of a business
Remember that you are visiting an attorney to get
an expert's impression of your matter â€“ be open to the attorney's
suggestions regarding your potential course of action.
WHO TO HIRE? THE SIZE OF FIRM
As you think about working with an attorney, consider
the size of the firm you might work with. There are advantages
(and disadvantages) of working with different types of law firms,
from a solo practitioner to the firm with hundreds of attorneys.
Solo Practitioners are lawyers who practice
on their own and are probably the largest single category of practicing
lawyers. In almost every town or city across the country there
is at least one solo practitioner who handles a variety of legal
issues usually with no specialization in any one practice area.
It is common for solo practitioners to handle several types of
legal issues â€“ though some are in highly specialized fields.
Some benefits of hiring a solo practitioner to help you with your
legal issue might include:
- Lower fees and costs. Generally, a solo practitioner has
a much lower overhead than a larger law firm, which enables
him or her to charge considerably less than a larger law firm
might for the same work.
- Often, solo practitioners are more willing or able to take
smaller cases where as a larger law firm might not.
- You will likely have a personal, one-on-one relationship
with a solo practitioner and his or her office staff. This
may mean that the intimate details of your case are understood
better and you'll have the comfort knowing that your case
will not be handed off to another attorney within the firm.
Small Law Firms are generally law firms that
have between two and ten lawyers. Small firms have many of the
benefits listed above for solo practitioners -- lower fees and
more personal interaction. In addition, the small law firm may
offer some of the following benefits:
- Some small offices may specialize in a very specific area
of law. These firms are often called "boutique firms."
- There is usually another lawyer available to cover for your
attorney if your attorney is unexpectedly unavailable.
- Knowledge sharing between attorneys in the firm can help
improve firm effectiveness.
Mid-Sized Law Firms usually have between
ten and fifty lawyers. Some benefits of working with a mid-sized
firm might be:
- Many have the warm characteristics of a smaller firm, and
at the same time some of the legal resources available in
a large firm.
- Access to additional resources within the firm may mean
that many, if not all, of your legal needs can be addressed
from one office.
- Often the more lawyers a firm has, the more contacts it
has within the legal community allowing it to draw from a
larger network and knowledge base.
Large Law Firms generally employ fifty or
more lawyers. Because of the number of lawyers in the office they
tend to handle large, complex legal problems. Some potential benefits
of working with a large firm might include:
- Most have the legal resources to handle issues for large
public companies, governments, and other larger organizations.
- They generally have several metropolitan locations, often
across the country or even worldwide.
- Because of their size and the nature of cases they handle,
as well as the high levels of expertise, large law firms tend
to come with considerable reputation and name recognition
within the legal community.
The following chart may help you evaluate which
size law firm will work best for your situation.
|Number of Attorneys
|Cost to Client
||Low overhead generally enables lower fees
||Lower overhead can mean lower fees
||More overhead and diverse resources may mean higher cost
||High overhead, high levels of expertise in many fields
generally means higher costs to clients
|Types of Cases Handled
- Often willing to take on smaller cases
- May not have in-house resources to tackle larger cases
- Generally willing to take on smaller cases
- May not have in-house resources to take on larger
- Maybe less willing to take on smaller cases
- Generally have in-house resources to take on larger
|Generally handle larger cases, often for big, public companies,
government and/or other large organizations
||May work with more than one attorney on a particular project
||Work with several attorneyâ€™s on a project
||May specialize in a particular area of law
||May specialize in particular area of lawâ€”often called
||May specialize, but often able to provide expertise in
many different areas of law
||Have high levels of expertise in many different areas
|Resources Available w/in Firm
||Often rely on outside sources if donâ€™t have in-house
- Additional attorneys in office may provide additional
- May need to rely on outside sources if donâ€™t have
|May be able to address all legal needs from a single firm
||Significant resources within the firm mean all legal needs
can be addressed by a single firm
||Given the personal nature of your relationship with the
attorney, the details of your case are less likely to slip
through the cracks
||Highly personal relationship with your attorney, but have
others who can cover if your attorney is unavailable
||The more lawyers in a firm, the more contacts the firm
has with the legal communityâ€”can be a big benefit to a
- Individual lawyers within the firm have very high
levels of expertise and have been educated in the most
prestigious law schools
- Prestige and name recognition
- May have offices in many metropolitan areas, both
domestically and internationally
How Much Will It Cost? â€“ Attorneys Fees &
There are a number of different ways Attorneys bill
for their services in different ways. You will want to become
familiar with the different methods before you meet with an attorney,
so you can better evaluate the estimated time and cost of the
services a particular attorney offers you. With all fee structures,
confirm with the attorney what will and will not be included.
In most cases, under most fee structures, you will be responsible
for the costs associated with your case â€“ things like copies,
filing fees, travel, hiring experts, or long distance phone calls.
Some lawyers charge a fixed or hourly fee for
an "initial consultation" â€” this is the first meeting where
you and the attorney determine if he or she can assist you.
Others offer a free initial consultation. Consultations can
be in-person or over the phone. Be sure to ask whether you
will be charged for this initial meeting or not the first
time you make contact with the lawyer.
Think of a retainer fee as a "down payment"
against which future costs are billed. The cost of services
is deducted from that account as they accrue. In some states,
retainer fees can be non-refundable, even if the lawyer doesn't
deduct the complete cost of his or her services. Some states,
however, require refund of any amount of the unused retainer.
Some clients maintain a monthly retainer fee, so that the
attorney will always be "on call" to handle legal problems.
Be sure to ask the attorney to clarify the details of any
retainer fee he or she may require you to pay. If have concerns
about whether or not the retainer fee should be refundable,
you should call your state's bar association for more information.
Some attorneys will also request a deposit for
costs. This is most common in a situation where a lawyer is
handling a matter on a contingency fee basis but expects the
costs to be unusually excessive and cannot fund them through
the firm. When a deposit for costs is made, it will be deposited
into the attorney's trust account and when a cost accrues,
the amount will be deducted from your balance to pay for it.
All amounts not used for costs are fully refundable to the
When working on a "contingency" basis, a lawyer's
fee is based on a percentage of the money that you receive
if you win the case or settle the matter before trial. If
you lose the case, the lawyer does not get a fee. However,
even if you don't pay the lawyer a fee, you will likely be
responsible for additional expenses he or she incurred when
representing you, such as court costs or document preparation
and copying costs. The percentage a lawyer will take as his
or her fee varies according to the attorney, and the type
of law suit involved. Contingency fees are most common in
cases such as personal injury, property damage, or social
security cases, where someone is being sued for money. Lawyers
may be prohibited from making contingency fee arrangements
in certain kinds of cases such as criminal and child custody
matters and their fee may be capped in some states.
A flat fee is a specific, total fee that is
decided up front, before the attorney provides any service.
A flat fee is usually offered only if your case is simple
or routine, such as drafting a straightforward will, bankruptcy
filing or representation for an uncontested divorce. Flat
fees often limit attorney's services, so be sure to confirm
what services are included in your flat fee arrangement.
When charging an hourly rate, a lawyer will
bill for each hour (or portion of an hour) that he or she
works on your case. An attorney with more experience in a
field may charge more for his or her services, but that attorney
may need to spend less time on an issue than an attorney less
familiar with the field. Different attorneys within a firm
may also charge more or less according to their expertise
level and years of experience. In addition to in-person meetings,
and all work on your case, hourly rates typically will apply
to phone conversations with your attorney or staff regarding
your case. It's a good idea to find out ahead of time how
the hourly rate will be calculated and what is included.
In certain situations, a statute or a court
may set the fee that you pay your attorney. Typical proceedings
involving a statutory fee might include probate or bankruptcy
Tips For Interviewing Lawyers - What to Expect
Regardless of the issues you plan to discuss, when
you meet with an attorney you should be prepared to answer questions
that may seem extremely personal. You may feel uncomfortable disclosing
the answers to some of these questions (for example, about your
income or past criminal history.) However, it is important that
you answer truthfully and completely. The answers will enable
your attorney to better address all issues surrounding your case.
Preparing for an Initial Consultation - What to
In order to make the most out of your initial consultation,
it's a good idea to gather material that would be helpful to the
lawyer before your meeting. Spend some time thinking about the
kind of information and documentation that might be helpful, and
about how you can logically explain your situation to an attorney.
If your situation involves many facts that are best presented
in chronological order, you may want to get a calendar and mark
down dates of when things happened, when you participated in various
correspondence, or received particular documents. If your situation
involves the drafting of a general document, for example, a will,
consider creating a flow chart explaining the way you would like
your assets distributed. Here are some suggestions about what
to bring with you, however you may need to tailor the list to
your particular situation:
Be prepared to provide you attorney with all of
your contact information, including an email address if available.
If you are uncomfortable with your attorney contacting you at
a particular location, make sure to inform your attorney of that
concern and try to work out an alternative way to reach you.
Important Facts Leading Up to Your Decision to
Contact a Lawyer:
- The names of important people involved in your situation
and their contact information
- Important background facts
- The time frame and any important dates pertaining to your
- Important events surrounding your situation (who, what,
where, when, why, how?)
- The current status of your situation
All Documents That Pertain to Your Situation:
- Documents (for example contracts, lease agreements, insurance
information, accident reports)
- All correspondence, including letters, faxes, phone notes,
- Employment materials (for example, an employee handbook,
Organizing Your Thoughts - What to Ask
The worksheet below may help you figure out which
questions to ask and how organize the information you gather from
each attorney. It is an easy way to compare their answers to your
questions, as well as your initial impressions of the services
they will provide for you. Again, you may need to tailor this
general list to fit your specific situation.
Notes and Impressions
|What kind of cases do you normally handle?
|Do you specialize in a particular area of
|What percentage of your practice is devoted
to this area of law?
|How many situations similar to mine do you
handle in a year?
|How often you do work on conflicts that end
up in a courtroom? That are resolved by an arbitrator? Through
|How much time does it usually take to resolve
a case like mine?
|What methods do you use to inform clients
about the status of their case?
|Are you available after hours?
|Would you be working on my case with other attorneys?
If so, can I meet them?
|How do you bill your clients?
|Do you require a retainer fee?
|Are there expenses, outside of your fee which I will be
responsible for? (Copying costs, expert witnesses, etc.)
|How much will it cost to represent me in this matter?
|Based on what you know about my case, what are the strengths
and weaknesses of my case?
Helpful Links and Resources
American Bar Association
The official website of the ABA. Provides comprehensive and thorough
education materials, links to attorneys and many other legal resources.
The leading free online index of legal materials. Provides extensive
educational materials, court links, links to attorneys, and other
helpful information on legal issues.
An online legal matching site that helps you quickly and easily
match your case to attorneys in your local area. This tool is
powered by FindLaw the most popular legal portal on the web.
The Law Review Project
The Coalition of Online Journals provides free full text search
of online law journals. Significant resource for educational materials
Legal Information Institute
This library is hosted by Cornell University's School of Law and
contains a variety of legal educational information and provides
links to other legal resources.
Trusts, Wills, and Estate Planning Attorney
Orange County, Irvine, Laguna Woods, Leisure World, Seal
Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest, Mission
Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Coto De Caza, San Clemente,
Newport Beach, Huntington Beach
County's friendly and caring estate planning law office.
The Law Office of Tracy Murphy is located in the city of
Irvine, in Orange County, California. Tracy Murphy represents
individuals, families, and small business owners in estate planning,
business planning, and tax planning. Tracy Murphy is a knowledgeable
estate planning attorney who understands the value of establishing
trustworthy, long-term relationships with each client. Clients
appreciate the availability of house calls and hospital visits
at no additional cost.
Murphy, Attorney At Law sets the highest standards
in Custom Estate Planning, dedicated to today's needs and tomorrow's
realities. Thorough and thoughtful evaluation of your needs guarantees
the optimum solution for your circumstances - no matter how simple
attorney should be your advocate. I will help you
plan one of the most important aspects of your future - your legacy.
With information assembled in one-on-one meetings, we will personalize
a trust that will put a legal frame to your needs and anchor your
we will set objectives, address concerns
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your needs, lifestyle and goals. Caring continuing attention to
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believe the most important estate planning objectives are protecting
what you have earned, and planning to provide for your loved ones"
- Tracy Murphy.
ABOUT ORANGE COUNTY WHERE THE MAJORITY OF OUR CLIENTS ARE:
Orange County is a county in Southern California, United States.
Its county seat is Santa Ana. According to the 2000 Census, its
population was 2,846,289, making it the second most populous county
in the state of California, and the fifth most populous in the
United States. The state of California estimates its population
as of 2007 to be 3,098,121 people, dropping its rank to third,
behind San Diego County. Thirty-four incorporated cities are located
in Orange County; the newest is Aliso Viejo.
Unlike many other large centers of population in the United States,
Orange County uses its county name as its source of identification
whereas other places in the country are identified by the large
city that is closest to them. This is because there is no defined
center to Orange County like there is in other areas which have
one distinct large city. Five Orange County cities have populations
exceeding 170,000 while no cities in the county have populations
surpassing 360,000. Seven of these cities are among the 200 largest
cities in the United States.
Orange County is also famous as a tourist destination, as the
county is home to such attractions as Disneyland and Knott's Berry
Farm, as well as sandy beaches for swimming and surfing, yacht
harbors for sailing and pleasure boating, and extensive area devoted
to parks and open space for golf, tennis, hiking, kayaking, cycling,
skateboarding, and other outdoor recreation. It is at the center
of Southern California's Tech Coast, with Irvine being the primary
The average price of a home in Orange County is $541,000. Orange
County is the home of a vast number of major industries and service
organizations. As an integral part of the second largest market
in America, this highly diversified region has become a Mecca
for talented individuals in virtually every field imaginable.
Indeed the colorful pageant of human history continues to unfold
here; for perhaps in no other place on earth is there an environment
more conducive to innovative thinking, creativity and growth than
this exciting, sun bathed valley stretching between the mountains
and the sea in Orange County.
Orange County was Created March 11 1889, from part of Los Angeles
County, and, according to tradition, so named because of the flourishing
orange culture. Orange, however, was and is a commonplace name
in the United States, used originally in honor of the Prince of
Orange, son-in-law of King George II of England.
March 11, 1889
* Congressional: 38th-40th, 42nd & 43
* California Senate: 31st-33rd, 35th & 37
* California Assembly: 58th, 64th, 67th, 69th, 72nd &
County Seat: Santa Ana
Robert E. Thomas Hall of Administration
10 Civic Center Plaza, 3rd Floor, Santa Ana 92701
Telephone: (714)834-2345 Fax: (714)834-3098
County Government Website: http://www.oc.ca.gov
CITIES OF ORANGE COUNTY CALIFORNIA:
of Aliso Viejo,
92653, 92656, 92698
City of Anaheim, 92801,
92802, 92803, 92804, 92805, 92806, 92807, 92808, 92809,
92812, 92814, 92815, 92816, 92817, 92825, 92850, 92899
City of Brea, 92821,
City of Buena Park,
90620, 90621, 90622, 90623, 90624
City of Costa
Mesa, 92626, 92627, 92628
City of Cypress,
City of Dana Point,
City of Fountain
Valley, 92708, 92728
City of Fullerton,
92831, 92832, 92833, 92834, 92835, 92836, 92837, 92838
City of Garden
Grove, 92840, 92841, 92842, 92843, 92844, 92845, 92846
Huntington Beach, 92605, 92615, 92646, 92647, 92648,
City of Irvine,
92602, 92603, 92604, 92606, 92612, 92614, 92616, 92618,
92619, 92620, 92623, 92650, 92697, 92709, 92710
City of La Habra,
90631, 90632, 90633
City of La Palma,
City of Laguna
Beach, 92607, 92637, 92651, 92652, 92653, 92654, 92656,
City of Laguna
Hills, 92637, 92653, 92654, 92656
City of Laguna
Niguel, 92607, 92677
of Laguna Woods,
City of Lake Forest,
92609, 92630, 92610
City of Los
Alamitos, 90720, 90721
City of Mission
Viejo, 92675, 92690, 92691, 92692, 92694
City of Newport
Beach, 92657, 92658, 92659, 92660, 92661, 92662, 92663
City of Orange,
92856, 92857, 92859, 92861, 92862, 92863, 92864, 92865,
92866, 92867, 92868, 92869
City of Placentia,
City of Rancho Santa
Margarita, 92688, 92679
City of San Clemente,
92672, 92673, 92674
City of San
Juan Capistrano, 92675, 92690, 92691, 92692, 92693,
City of Santa Ana,
92701, 92702, 92703, 92704, 92705, 92706, 92707, 92708,
92711, 92712, 92725, 92728, 92735, 92799
City of Seal Beach,
City of Stanton,
City of Tustin, 92780,
City of Villa Park,
City of Westminster,
92683, 92684, 92685
City of Yorba
Linda, 92885, 92886, 92887
communities Some of the communities that exist within city
limits are listed below:
* Anaheim Hills, Anaheim * Balboa Island, Newport Beach
* Corona del Mar, Newport Beach * Crystal Cove/Pelican Hill,
Newport Beach * Capistrano Beach, Dana Point * El Modena,
Orange * French Park, Santa Ana * Floral Park, Santa Ana
* Foothill Ranch, Lake Forest * Monarch Beach, Dana Point
* Nellie Gail, Laguna Hills * Northwood, Irvine * Woodbridge,
Irvine * Newport Coast, Newport Beach * Olive, Orange *
Portola Hills, Lake Forest * San Joaquin Hills, Laguna Niguel
* San Joaquin Hills, Newport Beach * Santa Ana Heights,
Newport Beach * Tustin Ranch, Tustin * Talega, San Clemente
* West Garden Grove, Garden Grove * Yorba Hills, Yorba Linda
* Mesa Verde, Costa Mesa
Unincorporated communities These communities are outside
of the city limits in unincorporated county territory:
* Coto de Caza * El Modena * Ladera Ranch * Las Flores *
Midway City * Orange Park Acres * Rossmoor * Silverado Canyon
* Sunset Beach * Surfside * Trabuco Canyon * Tustin Foothills
Adjacent counties to Orange County Are: * Los Angeles
County, California - north, west * San Bernardino County,
California - northeast * Riverside County, California -
east * San Diego County, California - southeast