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What should I know about hiring a lawyer?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Hiring a lawyer in Georgia Resources

Hiring a lawyer in Georgia

What should I know? +

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What should I think about when hiring a lawyer?

There are many reasons why you may need to consult or hire a lawyer. Some common reasons people talk to lawyers include:

  • They are dealing with a family matter (divorce, custody, etc.),

  • They are arrested for a crime,

  • They wish to file a lawsuit,

  • A lawsuit was filed against them, 

  • They need to file for bankruptcy, or

  • They wish to make a will. 

 

When hiring a lawyer, there are many things to think about, including:

  • Area of law. Most lawyers have a specialty and you want to find a lawyer that works in the right area of law. If you are arrested, you want to hire a criminal attorney who has handled a case like yours before.

  • Initial consultation. Before you hire a lawyer, you should ask for a consultation. Make sure you know whether there is a cost for this meeting. The initial consultation will help you: 

    • Understand whether your problem can be solved through the legal system,

    • Decide if you want to work with this particular attorney,

    • Hear what legal options the attorney thinks you have,

    • Learn what steps the attorney thinks you should take, and

    • Ask questions about costs and fees.

  • Costs and fees. Make sure you understand the potential costs of the case. On top of attorney’s fees, there may be legal fees that you have to pay the court. Ask exactly how you will be charged before you hire any attorney. There are different ways a lawyer might ask to be paid. Some common fees arrangements include:

    • Hourly pay. You would pay your lawyer an hourly rate. You might pay for any phone call, meeting and time your attorney spends working on your case.

      • You may be asked to give the lawyer a retainer fee. This is an advanced payment. The lawyer will take their hourly rate out of the retainer and return any extra when the case ends.

    • Flat fee. You pay one amount for the lawyer to complete a task. You might see this type of fee if you have a lawyer make a will or other financial documents.

    • Contingent fee. The lawyer would get paid a percentage of any settlement or money awarded at trial. This is generally a fairly large percentage because if you do not win the case, the attorney does not get paid.

    • Pro bono. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may qualify for free legal help:

      • For criminal matters, the court must appoint a lawyer to represent you.

      • For civil cases, contact Atlanta Legal Aid or Georgia Legal Services to see if you qualify for help. 

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What are my lawyer’s responsibilities?

Every licensed lawyer is bound by the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct. These rules create rights for clients and responsibilities for lawyers. A lawyer has a number of responsibilities to their client, including:

  • Confidentiality. A lawyer must keep information you tell them confidential. There are some exceptions, including to prevent a crime. 

  • Communication. A lawyer must keep in regular communication with their clients. They must give you enough information to make informed decisions about your own case.

  • Work on Behalf of Client’s Interest. A lawyer must work for the client’s best interest. This means that they have to avoid taking on other clients with opposing interests. The lawyer must also not make a profit from their client’s assets. 

  • Competence. Your lawyer must know enough about the area of law and work hard to protect your interests.

  • Diligence. Your lawyer cannot abandon your legal matter. They must meet filing deadlines and complete the work they say they will.

  • Fees. A lawyer cannot make an agreement for an unreasonable amount of fees or expenses. 

  • Property. Sometimes a lawyer will hold funds or property for their client. In that case, the property must be kept separate from the lawyer’s own funds or property.

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What can I do? +

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What can I do if I’m unhappy with my lawyer?

If you are unhappy with the help you are getting from your lawyer, you can end your relationship with them at any time. 

 

If you believe your lawyer has violated the rules of ethics, you can file a grievance with the State Bar of Georgia. 

 

It is possible that an attorney handles a case so badly that you could sue for malpractice. These cases are hard to win, so you could consult a malpractice attorney to understand your rights. 

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Last Review and Update: Dec 03, 2020