Choose the best lawyer for your needs

If you're looking for a lawyer to represent you in a legal matter, it's a good idea to ask them some questions when you first get in contact with them.

The answers they provide will help you feel confident (or otherwise) in their knowledge and previous experience. Questions about the lawyer's hours and costs will help you budget and avoid surprise expenses.

Questions to ask a lawyer

Ask your lawyer the following questions to find out if they're the right fit for your case.

What are your qualifications?
Lawyers should hold accredited qualifications and be registered to practice law in Victoria.

Do you have experience with my kind of problem?
Experience in the special needs of your business is important to get the best result.

What kind of clients do you see most often?
If the lawyer already has clients in your industry they'll have more knowledge about how to deal with your needs.

Can you begin work immediately?
If this is a problem, find out why.

What steps are involved in solving this problem?
Make sure you understand the specific details of each process.

Can you give me an estimate of the time likely to be involved?
Get a breakdown of how much time each step is likely to take.

Could you give me a frank assessment of my chances of success?
Find out if it would be better to try and negotiate a settlement?

Is there anything I can do to cut down the time you have to spend on the case?
Look for potential avenues to reduce your costs.

Who will look after my business most of the time?
Find out how many partners there are, and consider choosing a practice comparable in size to your business – sometimes smaller practices suit smaller businesses.

What sort of access will I have to the data you hold about my business?
Find out if you have access to important information you might need, for example notes of meetings and documentation.

How do you do your research?
A professional will subscribe to research journals and services, so ask to look at these. Even if you've never heard of them before, flick through them to check if they're up-to-date.

Discussing your case with the lawyer

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 take them with you at your first meeting with your lawyer.

When you first talk to your lawyer about your case:

  • make it clear you want to be kept informed of all developments in the case
  • mention if you think you may be entitled to legal aid – not all lawyers take legal aid work
  • be aware if your case involves family law proceedings, the lawyer must also give you a costs brochure prepared by the Family Court
  • make sure you get information about all legal costs, including estimates of the total legal costs, method of costing the legal service and billing arrangements – this information must be provided before the lawyer is retained, or as soon as practicable after being retained

How to save time at your first meeting

To prepare for your first meeting:

  • write a detailed account of everything you can remember – including dates if appropriate
  • list the expenses, and attach documents to support them