Have you been arrested for a crime? Were you injured by an accident that wasn’t your fault? Have you been served with a lawsuit? Are you going to get a divorce?
If you answered yes to any of those questions or are facing any legal situation, then it could be time to hire a lawyer. Complex legal situations should not be handled by inexperienced people. You could find yourself with expensive fines to pay or worse yet, be served with a jail sentence.
It really depends on your situation. Most times, lawyers take steps to protect themselves prior to beginning work for a client; we’ll talk with you about expected costs, make sure that everyone is on the same page, and take a retainer up front for clients that don’t have an established history of payment. That way, if the first bill or two goes out and you don’t pay, we’re at least covered for some of the work we do.
But despite the best intentions of everyone involved, occasionally a client’s finances take a turn for the worse, and a few months into a matter, they no longer have the ability to pay legal fees. If this happens to you, the best thing you can do is bring the development to your lawyer’s attention immediately. If you are straightforward and honest about your situation, many lawyers will at least attempt to work out a reasonable payment plan or settle a debt. Some may even be willing to convert a case to a contingency fee or blended rate to reduce financial stress on the client.
But unfortunately, many clients who run into financial difficulties either (1) make excuses and promise payments that they later fail to deliver or (2) begin hiding from their lawyer. And if a lawyer is doing work for you based on a misguided notion that he or she going to be paid in full, you’d better believe that they will not be in a generous mood when the truth finally comes out. There, a debt for legal fees is going to be treated just like any other debt, with the lawyer either suing/initiating arbitration and seeking a judgment or placing a lien against the debtor’s assets. Lawyers don’t like suing their clients, and most will try to work something out, but clients who are seen as taking advantage of their lawyers garner no sympathy.
The first thing that you should do upon finding and hiring the right lawyer for your case is to make sure that you get the fee agreement in writing that you can understand. If a term in the fee agreement is unclear to you, ask the attorney to re-write it in a way that is clear and understandable to you. Even if your state does not require a written fee agreement, it is still a good idea to have one. In addition, if you do not want to have your fee dispute end up in court, be sure that a mandatory arbitration clause is included in the fee agreement so that the dispute can take place in front of a neutral, third party instead of in an imposing courtroom.
Don’t let that happen to you. Instead, hire a lawyer. Don’t think you can afford one? This might change your mind…
Visit Law Schools
That’s right, some of the best attorneys haven’t even made a name for themselves yet. Law schools are a great place to find those lawyers. Most of these students are certified to practice law but have a supervisor. Many of these students can represent individuals with low-income, that means they might be a great option for you! Great defense for half the price, what’s not to like?
Price Out Attorneys
Many of us think that there is no reason to even investigate an attorney because they’ll be out of our price range. You might be surprised to find reasonably priced attorneys in your area. Some lawyers might even give you a discount, some may even be willing to work pro bono with payment only happening if you win your case. Search around and price out attorneys before you make a decision to go without.
Investigate Legal-Aid Societies
Another option is to research legal-aid societies. These are nonprofit organizations that you can find in just about any county in the country. These organizations often provide free or low-priced legal representation for those with low-incomes.
Do your due diligence and you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to find good representation for an affordable price.