After narrowing the attorney list to two or three, contact the attorneys and request a face-to-face meeting. If you outline your needs in advance, many lawyers are willing to meet with you for a half-hour consultation at no charge. You should ask the attorney whether he or she charges a fee for an initial consultation. During this meeting, pay attention to your comfort level with the attorney. Ask all prospective lawyers:
- What is your experience in this area of law?
- How will I be able to contact you?
- To whom in your office can I talk if you are not available?
- How long will it take you to return my communication?
- Approximately how long will it take to complete my legal work?
- What are your rates and how often will you bill me?
- What can I do to reduce legal fees?
Many people are uncomfortable talking about fees, but these must be discussed early in an attorney-client relationship. Legal advice does not come cheaply. Lawyers commonly charge for their work on an hourly basis. Fees vary by region, by the complexity of the case, and by the experience of the lawyer. Rates may range from $60 to $300+ per hour. Attorneys may also offer a “flat rate” for certain types of work, such as drafting a will or trust. After selecting an attorney and before beginning legal work, get an agreement in writing.
One final question that is helpful is to ask is “What would you like to know about me?” More than any other, this question will tell you whether this legal adviser is a true pro. If he or she is not interested enough in you to probe now for full answers to critical questions, say good-bye. You may never get the treatment you deserve from a professional who shows little interest.
- a. Attorney Ratings
- b. Interviewing Prospective Attorney Candidates
- c. Deciding What to Include in Your Estate Plan
- d. Preparing a Checklist for Meeting with an Attorney
Prepare Your Estate Plan belongs to a series called Legally Secure Your Financial Future. The series also includes information to help you organize important household papers and to communicate your health-care wishes.