What to Consider When Hiring a Consumer Lawyer
Companies of all sizes have incentives to cut corners to maximize their profits. When this happens, consumers who have been harmed may have legal recourse. Laws protect you against false advertising, defective products, identity theft, and other problems caused by companies that fail to respect the rights of their customers. However, claims brought under these laws are often complex, and corporations tend to have massive resources. They may marshal an army of defense attorneys to try to defeat your case before you get a chance to have your voice heard.
As soon as you think that a company may have violated your rights, you should discuss your options with a consumer lawyer. They can help decide the best strategy for you, whether that involves bringing a lawsuit against the company or filing a complaint with a government agency. Once you have chosen your course of action, your attorney can build sophisticated arguments to hold the company accountable.
Deciding who is the right lawyer for you can be challenging. A basic Google search can be a good place to start, but this should be only a first step. Google searches will lead to a wide range of results, including many paid listings that do not necessarily reflect the skill of a lawyer or their aptitude for your case. Similarly, you might gain useful insights from talking to friends or family members who have hired a consumer lawyer, but the right fit for them may not be the right fit for you. Each situation is unique. Here are certain guidelines that can help you knowledgeably research and compare attorneys.
Background and Experience
You should hire a lawyer who has substantial experience assisting consumers in situations that are similar to yours. For example, if you bought a car that has a serious defect, you should consult an attorney who has brought many claims under the lemon law in your state. If your child was injured by a defective toy, you should hire a lawyer who has assisted many victims with bringing products liability claims. If a creditor has violated federal or state laws that protect you from harassment, you should retain an attorney who has handled many debt collection defense cases. Familiarity with the relevant industry may make a difference. An attorney who has sued corporations that manufacture a certain type of product will know the evidence that needs to be gathered for your claim. Their track record also may cause the corporation to take your case more seriously. Some attorneys may have relevant board certifications or memberships in professional organizations. They may have received awards or other formal recognition of their legal prowess.
In general, you should aim to hire an attorney without a history of serious disciplinary issues. Information about an attorney’s professional record can be found by searching for them on the state bar website for their jurisdiction. You may want to review the details of any disciplinary action to get a sense of the events leading to it. Some violations are less significant than others. You may not want to automatically remove an attorney from your consideration based on a very minor infraction if they are currently in good standing.
On the other hand, a record of serious violations should be a red flag, even if the attorney has achieved some good results. You do not want egregious mistakes by your attorney to prevent you from receiving the compensation to which you are entitled.
Reviews and Testimonials
Reviews by previous clients can give you a sense of what it would be like to work with an attorney. You may find insights into their personality, level of professionalism, and communication skills. Client reviews can be helpful even if the details of your situation are different from a previous client’s situation. However, beware of very brief reviews that are harshly negative or effusively positive without providing details. These reviews may not be trustworthy.
If an attorney has received favorable reviews from other attorneys, this suggests that they have a strong reputation in the legal community. They may be more likely to be respected by defense attorneys, judges, and regulatory agencies, which can help resolve your case more favorably and efficiently.
Often, a consumer lawyer will discuss their most notable successes on their website or blog. Each matter is decided on its own facts, so you should not assume that you will receive the same outcome as a previous client. However, a history of positive results for consumers in roughly similar situations to yours can be a promising sign. You may also gain insight into the matters in which an attorney performs most impressively if many of their strongest results involve the same type of issue.
If you are especially impressed by a certain result, you may want to figure out the extent to which the attorney handled the key aspects of that case. Sometimes several consumer lawyers or law firms work together on a case, and the scale of their contributions may vary.
Some consumer lawyers offer free consultations to prospective clients, while others provide consultations for a modest fee. You can set up a consultation by phone or online after providing some initial details about your case. The consultation helps the client and the attorney decide whether they are the right fit for each other. Even if you are impressed by an attorney’s credentials and achievements, you should not choose them on that basis alone. Instead, you should make sure to work with a lawyer whom you can trust and who relates well to you. You should feel that your lawyer is personally invested in your situation, rather than treating you as just another case number. Ideally, you should set up consultations with several attorneys before deciding whom to hire.
Bringing a list of questions to the consultation can help you decide whether an attorney is the right fit. For example, you may want to ask the attorney about their initial perceptions of the strength and value of your claim. An optimistic answer may be encouraging, but you should think twice if an attorney makes guarantees or seems much more confident than their competitors. They may be overpromising. Also, you should listen to how the attorney explains their evaluation. They should be able to articulate their reasoning in a way that is coherent and accessible to a non-lawyer.
Fees are another important issue to address at the consultation. Many consumer lawyers charge contingency fees, which means that the attorney gets paid only if they recover compensation for you. Attorney fees may be awarded as part of a judgment, as provided by consumer protection laws. However, many cases are resolved through a settlement, which means that the contingency fee will need to be calculated differently. Sometimes a consumer lawyer will charge a flat fee instead, especially in cases involving debt collection disputes. This means that you will pay a certain set amount to handle the entire matter. Hourly fee structures, which are common in many other areas of law, are relatively unusual in consumer protection cases. Any fee arrangement should be clearly set out in the representation agreement so that you understand your obligations.
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