When you seek the advice or representation from a lawyer, that lawyer is bound by strict ethical standards and must act competently and professionally. Your lawyer must communicate with you about your matter and must always act in your best interests and keep your communications confidential. Even with the extensive ethical requirements placed upon attorneys, you should always make sure that you have confidence in your attorney's abilities and are comfortable with the way your matter is being handled.
There is no easy answer as to whether you require professional legal representation. Every individual is different and has different skills, experience and expertise. A person should never undertake significant legal or financial obligations unless that person understands the transaction and the consequences of their actions and has made the appropriate informed decision. As a general principle, a lawyer should always be consulted before an individual or company executes significant legal documents (like a deed, will or contract) to ensure that they understand the potential legal ramifications of the document and to ensure that the transaction is understood and in the client's best interests.
In certain limited situations an individual or business may be able to handle simple legal issues on their own without the need for professional legal representation. Minor traffic violations, small monetary disputes with individuals, clients or vendors can usually be resolved in an efficient, cost-effective manner without the need for professional legal services. However, many situations will involve complex issues requiring the skills and expertise possessed by an experienced attorney. Fortunately, most attorneys will provide you with a free consultation to discuss your matter and will give you the information you need to make an informed decision as to whether you need or want professional legal services.
Yes. As a general matter you may terminate the attorney-client relationship and/or change attorneys at any time for any reason. The client will generally be required to comply with the terms and conditions of any retainer agreement so long as those terms do not violate any professional or ethical rule. As such, the client will be held responsible for payment of any legal services provided or expenses incurred by the attorney prior to the termination of the representation. In a contingency-fee case, the attorney may be granted an "attorney lien" on your legal matter which awards the attorney a right to a portion of any future monetary recovery.
Your attorney will expect you to cooperate in good faith with the attorney and any staff members to ensure that your matter is handled competently and efficiently. As the client, you generally possess all the relevant information and documentation regarding your matter and the attorney cannot effectively represent your interests without your continued involvement and cooperation. Some legal matters may involve strict time deadlines that must be met, and you may be required to respond quickly to requests for information or to review and execute legal documents to protect your legal rights. The attorney will expect and require payment of services and expenses pursuant to your written retainer agreement.
You should expect to have a meeting with your attorney in person or by telephone to generally discuss your legal matter, your rights and a strategy for handling your matter. Depending on your situation, you may also interact with staff personnel including paralegals and legal assistants. If you decide to retain the attorney you should, in most circumstances, expect to receive a written retainer agreement setting forth the terms and conditions of the representation. Once you have retained the attorney, you should expect to receive periodic communications from your attorney or staff updating you on the status of your matter and seeking whatever information, documents or actions are required from you.
You should look for someone who has the skill, expertise and demeanor to handle your matter in a competent and efficient manner. You want to select an attorney who is responsive and will communicate with you honestly and effectively regarding your legal matter and who will work diligently to obtain the best outcome possible for your situation.
Most matters are handled on an hourly basis which can vary depending on the specific legal matter handled. This means the client is billed per hour (or fraction thereof) for the time that is directly spent on whatever tasks or services are required. Some matters may be handled on a "flat fee" basis where the client pays a certain pre-determined set fee irrespective of how much time is spent on the matter. Flat-fee matters could include residential real estate transactions or the preparation of less-complex legal documents like living wills and powers of attorney. A very small number of cases, usually involving personal injury or the enforcement of money judgments, may be handled on a contingency-fee basis where the attorney receives a percentage of the monetary recovery and where there is no fee for legal services if there is no recovery.
I specialize in advising individuals and businesses with respect to residential and commercial real estate transactions, business formation/consultation and litigation across numerous practice areas. I also advise clients on estate planning, landlord/tenant issues and many other types of legal matters. During my twenty years of practice I have handled a wide variety of legal matters across the state of New York and in all levels of state and federal courts.
I specialize in the practice areas that I have the most knowledge of and where I have developed most of my skills and experience. No attorney can be an expert in every practice area of the law, but many can be extremely proficient at providing a wide range of legal expertise and services required by the attorney's clients.