Common Questions and Answers
Courtesy of the New York City Bar Association
What is a Summary Judgment?
When do I need a lawyer?
How do I find a lawyer?
Do lawyers specialize?
If I go to another state, do I need a new lawyer?
What are the different types of fee arrangements?
How do I terminate a lawyer if I don't like him or her?
How do I resolve a dispute with my lawyer over his fees?
What is the best way to communicate with my lawyer?
How do I complain if I believe my lawyer has acted improperly?


What is a Summary Judgment?

A Summary Judgment is a decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case, and one party is entitled judgment as a matter of law. .......Find a Lawyer Now

When do I need a lawyer?

That is a hard question to answer, and many people discover too late that they should have consulted with a competent lawyer beforehand:

  • entering a business deal
  • selling or buying a business
  • responding to or contacting a lawyer or insurance company after an accident or injury
  • buying or selling real estate, including a residence
  • attempting to give away valuable property or write a will
  • dealing with a decedent¡¦s estate; or
  • becoming involved in an activity where key assets or liabilities are at stake
  • filing for divorce
The best rule of thumb is this: if it feels like an important activity you are about to engage in, it may be well worth your while to talk to a lawyer before getting involved. If you're still not sure, call your local Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service and one of their trained legal interviewers should be able to assess whether it would be appropriate at.......Find a Lawyer Now

How do I find a lawyer?    Top

iLawyer.org gives you an opportunity to arrange a convenient and cost effective consultation with a lawyer screened by a participating bar association. It will take only a short time to be matched up by a participating Bar Association with an attorney who has been screened in the appropriate subject area relating to your case. There is a nominal fee for the first half hour of your consult with the attorney. Consultations for personal injury or workers compensation cases are always free consultations for the person who has been injured. .......Find a Lawyer Now

Do lawyers specialize?    Top

Lawyers frequently have substantial experience and expertise in a particular area of practice to which he/she devotes considerable time and, as a result, develops specialized knowledge in that area. Examples include personal injury, medical malpractice, divorce and family law, workers compensation, wills, trusts and estates, intellectual property, and Labor/ Employment Law. A matter should be handled by a lawyer with experience in that particular area. A common example is a dissolution of marriage case, which most often is handled by a domestic relations specialist. In many states, the ABA approved bar associations offer experienced lawyers who have been screened for their background and expertise in the areas of law for which they are referred. .......Find a Lawyer Now

If I go to another state, do I need a new lawyer?    Top

Usually, the answer is yes. This is due to the fact that lawyers are licensed to practice in a given state, and if they go into another state, it may not be legal for them to practice law in that state without first getting a license or court permission to practice there........Find a Lawyer Now

What are the different types of fee arrangements?    Top

In general terms, there are three types of fee arrangements: (1) Hourly Fees, (2) Contingent Fees, and (3) Flat Fees.

An hourly fee is exactly what the term implies: you pay by the hour. That is, the lawyer bills you each month or every other month for the time he/she has spent on your matter and you pay based upon an agreed upon hourly rate. One reason hourly fees are quoted is that in many cases it is impossible to know how much work will be involved at the outset, and the parties mutually agree that the fairest way to proceed is for the work to be compensated on an hourly basis.

A contingent fee is vastly different from an hourly fee. In contingency matters that are handled on a pure contingency, the lawyer receives no fee unless money is recovered for the client. Basically, a contingent fee depends on the outcome of the case. It is contingent on the lawyer being successful. The most common type of contingent fee matter is a typical personal injury case, where the lawyer is not compensated unless he/she recovers money for the client. If there is a recovery, the lawyer's fee is an agreed upon percentage of the outcome - for example a one-third contingency fee would entitle the lawyer to keep one-third of the recovery. Sometimes, a contingent fee will fluctuate depending on the stage of the case. In New York State, contingency fee limits are established by law for personal injury and medical malpractice cases.

A flat fee is a specific rate, agreed upon in advance, for a given project. A lawyer might agree to charge $500 to prepare a deed, $750 for a will, and so forth. The hallmark of a flat fee is that it doesn't fluctuate. It is not contingent. And it does not depend upon the result obtained........Find a Lawyer Now

How do I terminate a lawyer if I don't like him or her?    Top

As the client, you have the absolute right to terminate a lawyer's services. The only requirement is that you communicate to the lawyer that the relationship has been terminated. The best way to do this is in writing. If you want to have the file transferred to another lawyer, you should instruct the previous lawyer in writing as to where to send the file.

Many fee arrangements provide that the lawyer, too, can withdraw from a lawyer-client relationship so long as the withdrawal does not prejudice the client. "Prejudice" in this case means that the attorney who withdraws does not do so at the last minute, on the eve of trial. The withdrawal must be in such a manner that the client has a reasonable opportunity to get a new lawyer.
In the case of a withdrawal, the client may owe the attorney fees, either based on the fee agreement or on a "quantum meruit" basis. (Quantum meruit fees are based upon the reasonable value of the attorney's services. Such a determination can be complicated, and the point to remember as a preliminary matter is that if you discharge your lawyer - or even if the lawyer withdraws - there may still be some fees owed.)
.......Find a Lawyer Now

How do I resolve a dispute with my lawyer over his fees?    Top

One thing you can do is agree at the outset that any fee disputes will be arbitrated. In New York State, upon the client¡¦s request most fee disputes between $3,000 and $50,000 may be submitted to fee arbitration.

If you received the lawyer referral through a Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, either through this web site or by calling the Lawyer Referral Service directly, you should contact that Bar Association to discuss the problem you are having with the attorney to whom you were referred. Each bar association which meets American Bar Association standards has a review mechanism in place to receive and review complaints, and to suspend or remove attorneys if necessary. One of the main advantages of finding a lawyer through a Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service is that the Lawyer Referral Service will be there for you in the event of problems which may come up between you and your attorney. If you find your lawyer by some other means, for example through the Internet, Yellow Pages, or other referral sources, there may be no place to turn except to the licensing authority, i.e., the office of court administration, disciplinary and grievance committees or the state bar association, which has a procedure for investigating matters of attorney misconduct.

If you would like to arbitrate the fee dispute, but are not sure whether your agreement with your attorney provides for arbitration, contact the Bar association for the county where the attorney practices to ask if they offer fee arbitration. If they do, then arbitration may be mandatory for the attorney if you request it.

What every client and counsel should keep in mind is that a voluntary resolution of a fee dispute is far better than a litigated resolution. These are matters that can, and should be settled voluntarily, but if often takes the help of a third party arbitrator or mediator to facilitate the process. .......Find a Lawyer Now

What is the best way to communicate with my lawyer?    Top

Pick up the phone and call him or her. That is the most immediate, direct way to communicate. If there is a problem, you may need to write a letter or send an e-mail message. The point is to keep the lines of communication open at all times. If there is a problem communicating, such as, the attorney never returns your calls, it may be an indication that you should seek out another attorney to handle your problem.......Find a Lawyer Now

How do I complain if I believe my lawyer has acted improperly?    Top

If you received the lawyer referral through a Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, either through this web site or by calling the Lawyer Referral Service directly, you should contact that Bar association to discuss the problem you are having with the attorney to whom you were referred. Each Bar association which meets American Bar Association standards has a review mechanism in place to receive and review complaints, and to suspend or remove attorneys if necessary (links for filing complaints with iLawyer participating Bar associations are provided below). One of the main advantages of finding a lawyer through a Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service is that the Lawyer Referral Service will be there for you in the event of problems which may come up between you and your attorney. If you find your lawyer by some other means, for example through the Yellow Pages, then there is no place to turn except to the licensing authority, i.e., the attorney's state bar association, which has a procedure for investigating matters of attorney misconduct. .......Find a Lawyer Now

 


 

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