III. IF YOU DECIDE
TO HIRE A LAWYER ...
do I find a lawyer?
There are many resources available to help you
find the right lawyer for your case. You can ask your friends,
colleagues or a lawyer who represented you in the past for
recommendations. Often, lawyers focus their work in a particular
area of the law, such as family law, landlord/tenant law or
personal injury law, so you need to look for someone with experience
handling your type of case. You may be able to meet preliminarily
with a lawyer you are considering hiring, though there may
be a charge for such a meeting. When you consult with a lawyer
about your case, you can expect your conversations to be kept
confidential. This is true even if you do not hire the lawyer.
With some time and effort on your part, you should be able
to find the right lawyer to represent you. For additional
resources, refer to Appendix A.
much will it cost to hire a lawyer?
How much you will have to pay to have a lawyer
represent you depends on a lot of things, including the type
of fee arrangement you make with the lawyer, the complexity
of your case and the amount of time a lawyer needs to work
on your case. You need to talk about legal fees and costs when
you first meet with a lawyer and get specific information about
how much your case is likely to cost. It is a good idea to
get a fee agreement in writing. It is important to understand
that the total cost of your case may be higher or lower than
originally estimated. To avoid being surprised, ask your lawyer
for a regular accounting of what fees and costs you have incurred.
are a matter of agreement between you and
fees and costs at the beginning and request
a regular accounting.
getting the fee agreement in writing.
Costs Most cases involve
expenses in addition to legal fees.
These expenses are often referred to as "costs" and
include such things as filing fees, service
of process, deposition costs, expert witness
fees, photocopy expenses, medical records,
etc. Be sure to talk to your lawyer about
what the costs are likely to be in your case.
Hourly fee Some
lawyers charge by the hour and the hourly
rate varies from lawyer to lawyer. Every
time your lawyer works on your case, including
telephone calls, letters, court dates, etc.,
you will likely be charged.
Contingent fee This
type of charge is often used in personal
injury cases. It means that you will pay
your lawyer a certain percentage of the money
you receive if you win the case or if you
settle the matter. If you lose, your lawyer
doesn't receive a fee, but you may still
be responsible for the payment of costs.
In Massachusetts, written fee agreements
are required in contingent fee cases.
Flat or fixed fee This
type of fee often applies to routine legal
matters such as a simple will or uncontested
divorce. If you agree to a fixed fee, make
sure you find out precisely what is included
in the fixed fee and what is not. There may
be additional costs.
Retainer A retainer
is usually considered a down payment on your
total bill for legal services. Since this
type of fee arrangement can refer to a number
of different things, be sure to have the
lawyer explain how he or she defines this
particular fee arrangement. Retainers are
typically used in hourly fee cases.
Consultation fee Sometimes
a lawyer will charge a fee to meet with you
to discuss the facts of your case, whether
the law supports the facts of your case,
and whether going to court with your case
is a good idea. This is also an opportunity
to meet the lawyer and decide whether you
want to hire him or her. The lawyer may or
may not decide to represent you. You may
or may not decide to hire the lawyer.
C. What if I'd like to hire a lawyer
but can't afford one?
If you can't afford to hire a private lawyer,
you may be eligible for free or reduced-fee representation.
Whether you are eligible will depend on your income and your
assets and may depend upon the type of case you have. Each
organization sets its own eligibility requirements. To locate
providers of free or reduced-fee legal services, refer to Appendix
A. In the Probate and Family Court, you may be able
to consult with a family law facilitator. A family
law facilitator is a lawyer who can help you prepare court
pleadings and explain court procedure to you. You can ask
at the register's office if there is a family law facilitator
available to assist you.
Lawyer Referral Service Provides
names of lawyers who might be able to represent
you whatever your income. Typically, your
local or State Bar Association will be a
source of information about lawyer referral
Reduced-Fee Panel Your
local or State Bar Association may be able
to provide names of lawyers who might represent
you at a lower cost than usual depending
on your income and the type of case you have.
Lawyer for the Day Some
courts provide a "Lawyer for the Day" service.
Through this program, a self-represented
litigant may be able to speak with a lawyer
at the courthouse and get limited legal advice
at no cost.
Legal Services Programs Law
offices or programs that provide free legal
assistance to income-eligible individuals
with certain kinds of cases, such as landlord/tenant,
domestic violence, or welfare or social security
Pro Bono Legal Services Legal
services provided to a client free of charge.
This term includes the types of services
described above but could also include services
provided by a private attorney at no charge.
D. Can I hire a lawyer to handle
part of my case?
In some circumstances, it may be possible for
you to hire a lawyer to handle only partof your case. In
a few of the courts, lawyers are permitted to provide "limited
assistance representation." Limited assistance representation
means that the client and the lawyer have agreed that the
lawyer will perform specific tasks on the case, but the client
will be responsible for other tasks. For example, the client
and the lawyer may agree that thelawyer will provide legal
advice on one or more issues, or will prepare or review certain
documents - but that the lawyer will not go to court or assist
the client in otherways. The client and lawyer also may agree
that the lawyer will appear in court for one or more events,
but not for the whole case. In courts where limited
assistance representation is permitted, it still may not
be suitable in a particular case. If you are considering
hiring a lawyer to handle only a portion of your case, you
should check with a lawyer to find out whether it is allowed
and makes sense in your case.