5 Questions to Ask when Hiring an Attorney

Corey —  May 4, 2010

       If you’re looking for an estate planning attorney, it’s smart to have a few questions to ask before hiring one. A standard set of questions will help you compare several attorneys before making a choice. These five questions will help you find an attorney who is capable of handling your situation successfully.

1. What’s Your Background & Experience?

       There are numerous fields of expertise in the practice of law. Real estate, business, family, and estate are some of the major ones. Obviously, you’d prefer an attorney who specializes in the area where you need help – estate law in this case. Find out how long the attorney has been practicing in this area, where they went to school, who they’ve worked for previously, and how much of their time is currently spent on situations similar to yours.

2. What’s Your Process?

       Ask how the attorney will be working with you. How is information gathered? How are revisions made to my documents? How many revisions are included in my fee package? Are there any ways I can lower the costs by being more prepared/doing things myself? The answers to these questions will help you know what to expect and also uncover some ways you may be able to pay less.

3. Will You Do the Work Yourself?

       Attorneys often pass off some of their work to paralegals or junior attorneys within the firm. Find out how involved the attorney will be with your situation. If other people will be working on the matter, your fees should reflect that fact. The time that paralegals and junior attorneys work on your situation should cost less than the attorney’s fee.

4. How Do You Charge?

       Does the attorney work on an hourly basis, for a flat fee, on retainer, or on some combination or other method? What are the fees involved for the attorney’s time? How are expenses (like copying, filing fees, mailing, etc.) handled and charged? What are my payment options? How will I be billed? Be sure you understand the attorney’s compensation and what expenses you’ll be responsible for before hiring the attorney.

5. What Will This Cost Me?

       The attorney should be able to give you an estimate for the total cost of the services you need. If you’re getting a will, power of attorney, and advance medical directive, the attorney should be able to provide you with a general cost for these documents. If the attorney is unwilling to provide you with an estimate or remains vague, move on and find someone who will be more upfront. Understand that while it can be difficult for the attorney to know what the total cost will be, they should be willing to provide you with a possible and reasonable range of fees.

Your Thoughts

       What other questions would you ask before hiring an attorney? Share your thoughts in the comments.



Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

4 responses to 5 Questions to Ask when Hiring an Attorney

  1. Good questions, especially since most people are probably a least a little intimidated speaking with an attorney.

    I’d add asking if he offers free initial consultation. There needs to be time early on for a feeling out process. Even if someone is an attorney specializing in a certain field that you need, you still need to find out if he or she has experience specific to your individual case and also how he sees the situation playing out. That’s your chance to see if the attorney will be friend, foe or just someone out to collect a fee (which is similar to a foe!)
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Income Sources You’ll Be Richer For Not Having Tried – Part 2 =-.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Kevin!

    It’s important to remember that when you’re hiring someone (anyone, including an attorney), you’re in charge. Sure, there may be some who can afford to refuse accepting work from you, but most will do what they can to get the revenue. So you’re in the driver’s seat and you need to use it to your advantage.

    From my experience most attorneys will offer a free initial consultation (but maybe only 30 minutes – no more than an hour). But it is good to ask to make sure. Thanks for suggesting it!

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