In the case you have not already, chances are that sometime in your lifetime you will want to employ a lawyer. With the help of my consultation with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, here's a selection of answers to common and important questions.
1. QUESTION: How do I know if I will need a legal professional?
ANSWER: If you have recently been served with a Summons and associated documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should really endeavor to seek legal guidance without delay. Papers filed in court that commence a lawsuit necessitate responses that involve particular deadlines; missing those deadlines could compromise your defense, reduce or avoid your recovery. Some issues by statute involve a "pre-suit" period of time that allow you to think about the legal issues and potential resolution before a lawsuit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer at the earliest opportunity is advised.
2. QUESTION: Do I have to hire an attorney at law in the county where the issue occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers or attorneys practice in other counties and other states, depending on their licensure for the latter. Having knowledge in the county wherein the matter is being litigated is crucial as that lawyer will have a level of comfort with the neighborhood courthouse personnel, attorneys (likely opposing lawyer) and judges. One thing to consider in retaining a lawyer away from area in which the matter takes place is cost of journey time. Some attorneys do not charge for travel, others give you a decreased rate or maintain a billable rate for all work performed. Discuss that question with each lawyer consulted.
3. QUESTION: Exactly what is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the issue present at an agreed location with their counsel (if retained) and a chosen mediator to try and solve all or a number of the problems involved. Mediators are to be unrelated to all parties and the litigation at issue, are to stay impartial amongst the parties and their lawyer, and continue maintaining the confidential structure of the conference to encourage settlement and resolution. Typically the parties share the charge of the mediation equally but other arrangements can be made if all parties are in agreement in advance of the conference. Mediation is normally required in every case filed in court and before a trial is held.
4. QUESTION: What type of law firm do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other industries, attorneys may specialise in a specific or more than one area. Similarly, law offices may specialize, offer general legal needs or provide services in a few unique areas of law. Trial lawyers handle cases involving lawsuits; family law attorneys handle divorce cases, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and related matters; general practitioners handle almost all matters. Some areas of law are extremely technical, like bankruptcy or taxation; others are delineated by statute, such as worker's compensation. Any attorney can talk about your particular issue, determine if he or she is qualified to take care of such matters or inform you of the necessity to consult with another in a specialised area.
5. QUESTION: How am I able to be sure my lawyer is handling my issues?
ANSWER: Every good attorney monitors his time (fees) and expenditures (costs). Your retainer arrangement should include a affirmation of how the lawyer bills his clients - month-to-month, quarterly, etc. You may even keep track of your case in some jurisidictions that provide on-line access 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 touch with your attorney at intervals to determine the status of the matter, knowing you will likely be billed for these communications.
6. QUESTION: Exactly how do I select an attorney or lawyer?
ANSWER: Legal problems are as vast as those in other industries, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and usually are just as complicated. To safeguard your legal rights and remedies, the ideal practice is to research your area of need and research what legal professionals are out there to work with you. A recommendation from somebody you know and admire can bring a personal element to the decision to hire an lawyer but really should not be the only reason counsel is chosen. Look into the attorney's background of training, experience and area(s) of practice. Asking questions should be urged in this process. Self-help can be empowering but may also reduce or negate your recovery. Hiring a legal professional should be considered with exactly the same degree of thought and consideration as that given to the selection of a physician, accountant, financial advisor or therapist.
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