The days when an attorney would put a sign outside of his new office and welcome any and all client—regardless of what type of case he or she had—are long gone. Today, it is absolutely imperative that a client chooses an attorney that specializes in and has extensive experience in the particular type of case the person has. For example, you do not want an attorney that specializes in contracts to handle your divorce case, you do not want an attorney that specializes in mergers and acquisitions to handle your property dispute, you do not want an attorney that specializes in the defense of corporate fraud to handle your landlord tenant dispute and you certainly do not want an attorney that specializes in criminal or family law to handle your personal injury or wrongful death case.
As such, the first important question to ask is whether the attorney or law firm you are interviewing specializes in and has significant experience in the type of case you have. If the answer to that question is yes, there is still significant information needed in order to make an informed decision.
First, as the potential client you should be able to meet with the actual attorney(s) that will handle your case instead of simply an employee or legal assistant of the firm. In order for the attorney to effectively represent your interests they must know you personally. It is impossible to evaluate a client as a witness or get a feel for the real person simply by reviewing medical records or memoranda from employees of the firm. More importantly, an attorney/client relationship should be built on trust. Unless the client has an opportunity to meet with the attorney and ask questions that element of trust is often absent.
Second, if the client is comfortable with the attorney as a person, at that point the next critical area of inquiry is background and experience. The attorney that you choose must have extensive experience in the type of case you have. The attorney should have handled a significant number of the type of case you have. Examples of the types of questions that should be asked are:
The attorney should be more than happy to answer these types of questions and if he or she is not, you should be wary.
Certainly, the attorney should have the appropriate number of employees and adequate staff to handle your case. Some cases, especially the more complex cases require capable paralegals, legal assistants and other employees at the firm to make sure the work is accomplished in a timely and professional manner. Inquiry into these areas can be a simple as looking at the office at the first client interview or asking specific questions regarding the names and qualifications of the individuals at the firm that will be working on your case.
Finally, depending on the type and nature of the case, medical experts and other technical experts such as biomechanical engineers, accident reconstruction experts, human factors experts, construction experts, excessive force experts, store policy, procedure and protocol experts are needed in order to successfully prosecute your case. You should be sure that the attorney you choose understands these issues and is familiar with and has used a number of experts in the fields necessary to win your case.
Overall, the attorney/client relationship must be built on trust and the client should have confidence in the attorney both based on his or her qualifications as well as demeanor and the way you are treated.