7 Questions You Should Ask Any Law Office Before You Hire Them
Number 2 May Shock You
We have put together this free guide to help you talk with attorneys and ask questions before you hire them so that you can make the right decision when choosing a lawyer to represent you and your family.
Question One: “Will you personally handle my case?”
At some law firms, the attorney that you meet with initially will not be the lawyer that does most of the work on your case. You may meet with a senior partner with a long resume but the day-to-day work on your case may be handled by someone else. It may be handled in large part by someone who is not even a lawyer. Some firms use paralegals or staff to handle a surprising amount of the work. That is not how it works at Cornett Law Office. We have two lawyers – John E. Cornett and Robert H. Cornett. You can call us by our first names and you can be sure that one of us will handle every important detail of your individual case. Our offices are not in a skyscraper in downtown Lexington. Instead, we are right on Court Street in Georgetown. So the attorneys you meet at the consultation will be the attorneys who handle your case the whole way through.
Question Two: “Do you carry malpractice insurance? If not, why not?”
This may shock you but Kentucky lawyers are not required to carry malpractice 2 insurance. This could leave you unprotected at the worst possible time. At Cornett Law Office we carry malpractice insurance that protects our clients in the very unlikely event (we believe) that we make a mistake that hurts a client’s interests.
Question Three: “How often do you practice in front of the judge who will rule over my case?”
Each judge has a unique style. It is vitally important in most cases that the attorney understands and adapts to the judge’s individual preferences. With day-in and day-out courtroom experience in front of a particular judge, a good attorney learns how a judge likes things done and how she or he responds to different arguments, etc. We intentionally limit the counties where we practice in because we believe that it is absolutely necessary that we have a working knowledge of our judges. At Cornett Law Office, we focus on these counties: Jessamine County, Boyle County, Garrard County, Mercer County, Woodford County, Lincoln County, Bourbon County, Madison County and Fayette County. We will occasionally take cases outside of these counties if we have an existing relationship with a client or there are special circumstances. However, we intentionally stick to places where we can appear before judges with whom we are familiar.
Question Four: “How current are you on your continuing legal education credits and are your credits earned in your main practice areas?”
It is a running joke that many attorneys scramble at the last minute every year to get enough continuing legal education (“CLE”) credits to keep their law license from being suspended. It is not uncommon to see a lawyer who mainly takes DUI and criminal cases sitting through a seminar on equine law just because that was all that was available the week before the deadline. Malpractice insurers, however, seem to hate this behavior and usually give heavy discounts on malpractice insurance to attorneys who devote the time to earn more than the just the minimum amount of CLE credits legally allowed. At Cornett Law Office we prioritize staying current on the law. We strategically enroll in CLE classes that fit our practice and allow us to stay on top of the current law while expanding our knowledge base so that we feel like we are best situated to serve our clients. You will never see us sitting through some irrelevant CLE class at the last minute just so we do not have our license suspended. We prioritize and we plan so that we maintain the knowledge that our clients need to prosper. And we always earn enough CLE credits to keep our malpractice insurance company thrilled with our diligence.
Question Five: “Do you have a system in place to make sure that all client questions are answered in a timely fashion?”
Lawyers can be notoriously hard to get in touch with. We are in and out of court all day and it is simply impossible to be accessible at all times. Our office manager, Sonya, is kept informed of our cases and can often answer simple questions. She is also responsible for making sure that we respond to more complicated problems in a timely manner. We cannot promise that we will always be available or that we can address your specific problem within an hour. No law firm can. However, at Cornett Law Office we have a process in place that ensures every client gets an answer to their questions as soon as it is feasible given our workload. Every client communication is prioritized according to urgency so that we respond quickly and effectively to every question.
Question Six: “How often will I be billed? Will I be given an itemized invoice that explains every charge? If not, why not?”
It is important to consider the financial obligation that hiring an attorney entails. As you have probably heard, we don’t come cheap. (And if we do, it may be for a reason.) However, it is also important that your attorney is accountable for what he or she charges you. Most lawyers use either a contingency fee or a billable hourly rate. At Cornett Law Office, we use both depending on the case but we generally stick with the billable hour method for most of our cases. We provide monthly invoices that let you know how we have spent our time on your case if you have hired us by the hour. You will not get some huge bill and be left wondering just what exactly we did on your behalf. We will show you just how we worked for you. A retainer fee is usually required to get started on your case, but we will account for every dollar and keep you informed of where you stand on any and all legal fees.
Question Seven: “Why should I TRUST you?”
At the end of the day, you are hiring a lawyer because you have a huge, scary problem. Whatever your problem is, it is vitally important to you and you have taken the uncomfortable step of talking to a lawyer in order to find a solution. You need not only a solution but a lawyer whom you can trust to provide that solution. Do not be afraid to ask any attorney that you talk to why you should trust anything he or she says. You might be surprised at the answers you are given.
We hope that this report was helpful and gave you some food for thought.
Disclaimer: The information contained here is not intended as legal advice and should not be considered legal advice. If you would like to speak to an attorney for purposes of obtaining legal advice, please contact our office at (502) 868-5300 to schedule an appointment.
John & Robert