If you are thinking about hiring a lawyer, visit this section to find suggestions for finding and retaining a lawyer, and basic things you should know about what to expect.
Resources To Help You Find A Lawyer
Lawyer Referral and Information Service ("LRIS"). The LRIS is a free public service from the State Bar of Nevada. You can call the LRIS to get a referral to an attorney who practices law in the area you are looking for.
An attorney who is a member of LRIS may charge no more than $45 for an initial consultation. If you hire the attorney after the initial consultation, the attorney will negotiate the fee with you.
To use this free service, call LRIS at 702-382-0504 or toll-free within Nevada at 1-800-789-LRIS (5747). Visit the LRIS website to learn more.
- Friends and relatives. Friends and relatives who have used a particular lawyer are often the best source of referrals because they have personal experience with that lawyer and can tell you whether they were satisfied.
- Other lawyers. Ask a lawyer you know. You may know a lawyer, but that lawyer does not handle the type of case you have. Still, lawyers know other lawyers and are familiar with their areas of specialty and whether they are competent.
- Other professionals. Other professionals – such as real estate agents, accountants, and stock brokers – who have occasion to deal with lawyers professionally can be a good source of referrals for a lawyer with the expertise to handle your type of problem.
- Legal directories. Legal directories – such as Martindale-Hubbell, West Legal Directory, and others – are available in some local public libraries and your local law library. Directories typically describe the types of cases and problems a lawyer handles and may even give the lawyer a rating or grade.
Selecting A Lawyer
Once you have a list of lawyers, you should call each one and speak to the lawyer for five or ten minutes to determine whether he or she handles your type of problem. Get a feel for whether you think you can get along with the lawyer. If you are satisfied so far, make an appointment. Find out if there is a consultation fee.
This first phone conversation is also an opportunity for the lawyer to decide if your case is one he or she might want. If it is not, the lawyer can save you the trouble and expense of coming in. If the lawyer tells you he or she is unable to represent you, ask for a referral to another lawyer who handles your type of matter.
Some of the questions you might want to ask the lawyer in your initial consultation are:
- Where are you licensed to practice law?
- What type of legal experience do you have?
- How many cases or matters of this type have you handled?
- What percentage of your practice is in this area of the law?
- How would you approach resolving my problem?
- What can I expect to happen over the next few weeks, few months, and until the conclusion of the matter?
- How long do you estimate it will take to conclude this matter?
- Will you send me copies of correspondence and court filings?
- Are there deadlines I should know about?
Based on the answers, you need to decide whether this lawyer is the one for you. Before making any decision, you should talk to the attorney about fees. Always make sure you understand the fees before you decide to hire a lawyer!
How Lawyers Charge
Many people are are afraid too see a lawyer because they think it might be too expensive. Actually, in many cases, fees are moderate when you consider the important things at stake in your case. A lawyer's fee may be well worth the price to present your best possible case to the judge.
When you first contact a lawyer's office to make an appointment, ask what the lawyer charges for an initial consultation. At your meeting, ask about fees. There are four ways lawyers typically charge for legal services:
- Hourly. In family and civil cases, the lawyer might charge an hourly fee. The lawyer will keep time sheets describing the time spent on your case and will bill you on a monthly basis. The lawyer may require you to pay a "retainer" up front, which is a lump sum of money used to pay down the hourly fees as they work on your case. The lawyer may ask you to replenish the retainer amount if the balance falls to a lower amount that will not be enough to continue in your case.
- Flat fee. A lawyer may charge a set fee for the service to be provided, regardless of the time involved. Flat fees are commonly used in criminal defense cases, bankruptcies, and the preparation of simple wills, deeds, and other documents.
- Unbundled fees. An "unbundled" lawyer represents you for just one specific, limited part of your case. For instance, you could hire a lawyer to prepare a court document for you and nothing else. You could hire a lawyer to appear at a hearing on your behalf and nothing else. An "unbundled" attorney does not represent you throughout your entire case, and is allowed to withdraw immediately after completing the task they were hired to perform.
- Contingency. In some cases, lawyers charge a contingency fee which is an agreement that the lawyer will receive, as their fee, a percentage of the amount the client wins in a case. This is common in personal injury cases.
What You Can Expect From Your Lawyer And What Your Lawyer Can Expect From You
As a client, you have certain rights. They include the following:
- Confidentiality. Your conversations with your lawyer and any documents or information you give your lawyer are required to be kept private. Your lawyer should not discuss your private business with anyone outside of the lawyer's firm.
- Competence. You have a right to expect your lawyer to handle your matter competently. This does not mean he or she will know all the answers. It means your lawyer should know where to find the answer and should devote the attention to your matter that it deserves.
- Honesty. You should expect your lawyer to tell you the truth and to handle any funds of yours in a completely trustworthy manner.
- Loyalty. Your lawyer should not have any conflicts of interest that would cause his or her loyalty to be divided between you and another person with an interest in the outcome of your matter.
- Information. You have a right to be kept informed of the progress of your matter and to have your questions answered.
- Responsiveness. Your phone calls should be answered in a timely fashion.
Your lawyer also expects certain things from you in order to handle your case most effectively. They include:
- Honesty. You should provide your lawyer with full and complete information about your matter, including, especially, information that may be bad for your case. Remember that the lawyer must keep this information confidential. Your lawyer cannot represent you well if you hold back or lie about the facts.
- Cooperation. You and your lawyer must work together as a team. You cannot simply turn your problems over and expect him or her to call you when it is resolved. Gather the documents the lawyer asks for, fill out the forms, write down what happened, gather names and addresses of witnesses, and try to follow your lawyer's instructions and advice.
- Payment of fees. If you have agreed to pay fees or costs, your lawyer expects you to comply with your agreements. If you do not, your lawyer may withdraw from your case.
What If You Are Unhappy With Your Lawyer Or Disagree With The Fee?
As the client, you have an absolute right to fire your lawyer at any time. Before you do that, though, see if you and your lawyer can resolve whatever problems you are having. Have a frank discussion with your lawyer and explain your point of view. Ask the lawyer to explain anything you do not understand. Maybe you can save the lawyer-client relationship by talking about things openly.
If you are still not satisfied, you may want to change lawyers. If an important court date is coming up soon, changing lawyers may be very risky and difficult. You may not be able to get a new lawyer in time for upcoming important deadlines and hearings.
If you get a new lawyer, your new lawyer should take care of any necessary paperwork to make the change. If you want to fire your attorney and represent yourself, you may need to get permission from the court.
If you disagree with your attorney over their fees, the State Bar of Nevada’s Fee Dispute Arbitration Program may be able to help. The program is an informal, free program designed to resolve fee disputes of $250 or more between attorneys and their clients. Fee disputes of $5,000 or less are first assigned to a mediator to help resolve the dispute. If mediation fails, parties have the option of moving forward with arbitration.
Visit the State Bar of Nevada website to learn more about the Fee Dispute Arbitration Program and how to file a fee dispute application.