Selecting the Right Lawyer

Be well prepared

Make sure you give the lawyer a clear picture of what your problem is and what you hope to achieve.

Assemble as many facts and documents related to your case as you can, organise them and bring them with you.

The more information you have, the easier it is for the lawyer to advise you properly, in the shortest possible time.

What to do

  • Write down the questions you want to ask the lawyer.
  • Write down the outcome you hope to achieve.
  • If you feel it would be helpful, arrange for a support person to go with you (e.g. relative, friend).
  • If necessary, arrange for an interpreter to be available.

For example, if you were involved in a car accident:

  • Write out a detailed account of everything you can remember about how the accident happened and the injuries you suffered.
  • Draw a diagram of the accident scene.
  • List the expenses you have incurred – bring documents supporting this.

At the first meeting with your lawyer

Ask questions

Use the first interview to get as much information as you can. There is no guarantee this is the lawyer for you. You want a lawyer you feel comfortable with, and whose advice you can take with confidence.

Questions to ask

  • Does the lawyer have experience in your kind of problem?
  • Can the lawyer give an estimate of the likely time involved?
  • Can the lawyer begin work immediately?
  • What options exist to deal with your legal matter?
  • What steps are involved in solving the problem?
  • How much time is each step likely to take?
  • What are the chances of success, and would it be better to try to negotiate a settlement?
  • Is there anything I can do to cut down the time the lawyer has to spend on the case, and so reduce my costs?

Take notes of what is said for your own records.

Tell your lawyer if you have any concerns about your personal safety.

Before retaining the lawyer

The following are useful tips to bear in mind before you retain the lawyer:

  • Make it clear you want to be kept informed of all developments in the case.
  • If you think you may be entitled to legal aid, mention this to the lawyer. Not all lawyers take legal aid work.
  • With Limited exception, when or as soon as practicable after being retained, the lawyer must provide you with information disclosing costs, including:
    • The basis on which they will be calculated.
    • An estimate of total costs.

Avoiding problems

Most problems between lawyers and clients stem from a lack of communication. If problems come up, talk to your lawyer or write to them.

Remember: You will probably be making a big investment, both in time and money, in resolving your legal problem. Carefully choose the lawyer who is best for you.

There are a number of ways to choose a lawyer

1. Get a referral from a lawyer.

If you have used a lawyer before and were happy with their service, but they don’t practise in the area of law you need – ask them to refer you to someone who does. Ask for two or three names.

2. Ask your friends or acquaintances.

If you have never dealt with a lawyer before someone you know may have. Ask if they were satisfied with their lawyer. A personal recommendation is usually a good way of making a choice.

3. Other professional people.

People you have contact with, such as doctors or accountants, may know a lawyer.

4. The Law Institute of Victoria's Legal Referral Service.

The Law Institute of Victoria's Find Your Lawyer Referral Service can put you in touch with a lawyer. With an LIV referral letter, participating law firms will see clients for a consultation of up to the first 30 minutes, free of charge. You can use this inquiry interview to determine with the solicitor the nature of the legal issue, discuss the available options and receive an estimate of costs to proceed with your matter. Even if you are not sure that you have a legal problem, you can take advantage of this service.

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