TO FIND AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER IN FLORIDA
SHOULD I SEE A LAWYER?
You need a lawyer.
The question is, how do you find the right lawyer for your needs?
And, once you do, how can you figure out what it might cost?
is not intended to address every situation or legal question that
may arise, but to give some guidance in getting the right legal
help when you need it.
Often we turn
to lawyers as a last resort after the contract has been signed,
or the spouse has walked out, or a creditor is threatening.
The adage, "an
ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," is as true with
legal matters as it is with regular medical checkups.
Good legal advice
is one of the greatest preventative measures a lawyer can provide.
Not only can it save you money in the long run, it can also save
you from unpleasant difficulties later.
DO I FIND A LAWYER?
more than 61,000 licensed lawyers practicing in the state. The phone
book lists page after page of lawyers' names. How do you know which
one is right for you?
Make a careful
search for your lawyer it's an important decision. Your goal should
be to find a lawyer you are comfortable with as a person and as
a professional. Many legal matters involve personal considerations
and your lawyer often will need to know confidential information
about you, your family and your finances to be truly effective in
In your preliminary
research, you should focus on compiling a list of the names of lawyers
who may be qualified to handle your case. Your "follow-up"
research will include making phone calls to those lawyers' offices
then visiting one or a few to find the attorney you want to handle
To begin, consider
a lawyer's reputation. Have you heard people speak highly of a particular
attorney's talents or work? Think about your acquaintances who are,
or may know, lawyers. Ask those who work with attorneys in their
profession, or someone whose opinion you respect an employer, lawyer
at your workplace, banker, teacher, minister, doctor or other professional,
relative, neighbor or other friend.
The best recommendations
often come from people who hired a lawyer to successfully resolve
a problem similar to yours.
A new and growing
development in Florida and other states are prepaid legal services
plans. Through a prepaid legal program an individual or group pays
a premium something like health insurance to receive such services
as free consultations and advice, with prescribed fees for follow-up
services. Before hiring an attorney or before you even think you
might need one you should check to see if your employer, union or
other organization of which you are a member offers a prepaid legal
service plan as a benefit.
Many local bar
groups in Florida sponsor lawyer referral services, listed under
"attorney" or "attorney referral services" in
the yellow pages of the telephone book. These services can set up
an initial appointment for you with a lawyer for a nominal fee (usually
less than $50).
If there is
no lawyer referral service in your city, The Florida Bar's statewide
service can locate a lawyer for you. You can call this service toll-free
at 1-800-342-8011. The statewide service, which operates only in
cities where there is no local program, will refer you to an attorney
for an initial half-hour consultation for $25.
new method for helping people find attorneys are commercial lawyer
referral services, which usually pool lawyers' marketing resources
to advertise a central toll-free number. When potential clients
call, they are referred to one of the attorneys who has signed up
for the service.
Most areas in
Florida also have legal aid and public defender offices which provide
legal help without cost, or at a nominal fee to persons who cannot
afford to pay a lawyer. Legal aid offices provide advice in some
non-criminal cases such as those relating to small money claims
for wages; disputes between borrowers and lenders; landlord-tenant
problems; and domestic relations matters. Public defender offices
handle criminal cases for indigent persons.
client can also use regional, state or national directories of lawyers
and law firms, some containing detailed biographical information
and client listings. These volumes some specially produced for consumer
education, and others used by lawyers to identify attorneys in other
localities can often be found in public libraries.
Lists of recommended
attorneys are also circulated within special interest groups. If
you are a member of such a group, ask if they have such a roster.
Aside from this
information, some lawyers are now using consumer advertising on
radio and television, and in newspapers, magazines and other media
to inform the public of their services and charges for certain routine
who practice law in Florida have undergone extensive character and
fitness checks, a rigorous examination and are required to meet
certain requirements for continuing legal education. Each member
shall complete a minimum of 30 credit hours of approved continuing
legal education activity every 3 years. Five of the hours must be
in the area of legal ethics or professionalism, including approved
substance abuse and mental illness awareness programs.
operate this law business by themselves, while others are in law
firms with various numbers of attorneys. They may have a general
practice, handling a variety of legal problems, or concentrate their
knowledge and skills in one or more specific areas of the law, such
as personal injury, real estate, commercial or tax law.
operate legal clinics many conveniently located in shopping areas
or within national chain stores where you can get help with relatively
simple matters such as an uncontested divorce or a routine will.
They often can charge less by working on a volume basis using simple
forms and focusing on routine but important services.
While many qualified
lawyers are not board certified, board certification is one way
to decide if a lawyer is right for you.
In 1982, the
Florida Supreme Court adopted a certification program through which
Florida lawyers can qualify by examination in:
A lawyer certified
in one of these fields is a recognized practitioner, considered
to have advanced knowledge and skills in that particular field of
To become a
certified specialist, a lawyer must: be an active member in good
standing of The Florida Bar; have practiced law for a minimum of
5 years; pass a written examination in the specialty area; be favorably
evaluated as to ability and experience in the specialty field by
judges and other lawyers; and exhibit outstanding character, ethics,
and a reputation for professionalism.
certification remains valid for 5 years. To recertify, the attorney
must generally meet the same requirements as for initial certification.
ATTORNEYS' NAMES, NOW WHAT?
Once you have
a list of one or more lawyers, call their offices. Briefly explain
your situation and ask:
If the lawyer
has experience with your kind of problem
If the lawyer charges for an initial interview and, if so, how much?
If your problem is routine, does the attorney have a standard fee?
What does it cover?
If your problem appears more complicated, ask about hourly fees.
Does the lawyer have a written agreement describing fees and services
provided for the fees?
Write down the information and compare the answers you receive.
Then, call back for an appointment to interview the attorney or
attorneys whose answers satisfied you the most. Most of these "initial
consultations" are free or provided at a nominal cost.
Go to the first
interview with an open mind. You don't have to decide to employ
the lawyer you are interviewing until you have had time to think
when you first meet with the lawyer. It is important to have with
you a written summary or detailed notes outlining your problem;
the names, addresses and phone numbers of all parties and witnesses
and their lawyers and insurance companies if you know them; and
all documents which may relate to your case such as receipts, contracts,
medical bills, repair estimates, checks, etc. Some lawyers may ask
you to deliver photocopies of written materials in advance of your
first interview so the lawyer can review them in advance.
Write them down before you visit the lawyer's office. Here are a
few that may be helpful:
Have you had
experience with this type of problem before? How recently? How often?
What was involved?
What percentage of your practice is devoted to this kind of problem?
Will you actually be working on my case? In what way? Will any other
persons be doing work on my case? What will they do? How will it
affect my fee or relations with you?
Will you talk to me in plain English when I do not understand "legalese"?
Will you provide me copies of all documents and letters received
or written in my case? Will you treat this as an out-of-pocket expense
or will you want me to pay for it in advance? Will you allow me
access to my case file at your office?
Will you keep me informed about all developments in my case? For
important things, will you allow me to make the final decision?
Will you send monthly billing statements?
Are you willing to submit any fee disputes to binding arbitration?
One way to judge a lawyer's competence is by the amount of time
he or she devotes to keeping up with changes in the law through
continuing legal education. Ask questions to see if the lawyer you're
thinking of hiring keeps up with changing laws.
you hire a lawyer, the lawyer will be working for you. He or she
should be genuinely interested in your problem and in giving you
the best possible advice. The lawyer may not be able to accomplish
everything you wish because of the facts or the law that apply in
your case. Many times a good lawyer will advise you to avoid court
action. A lawyer should be able to explain, in terms you can understand,
what he or she hopes to accomplish for you and how he or she plans
to do it.
how the lawyer responded to your questions, his or her experience
and whether you will be able to work with the lawyer.
If you are satisfied
with the interview so far, tell the lawyer everything about your
problem, including facts which may be unfavorable or embarrassing
to you. Unless you are completely candid, the lawyer will be unable
to advise you properly.
prohibit the lawyer from repeating to anyone what you say, unless
you admit any ongoing or planned criminal activity.
Next, you may
want to ask the lawyer questions such as:
What are the
strengths and weaknesses of my case?
What would you advise me to do about my situation?
Can a timetable be set for my case?
If I hire you, what will you be doing for me, and when and how will
we get back in touch with each other?
Is there a statute of limitations, or legal deadline in my case
that we must be careful not to miss?
WHAT ABOUT THE FEE?
frankly with the lawyer, preferably at your first meeting.
Often, a lawyer
cannot tell you exactly what the charge will be because it is difficult
to estimate how much work is going to be involved. But lawyers can
usually estimate the minimum and maximum limits of the fee for that
particular work, or give you some idea of the problems involved
and the time that will be required.
for paying legal fees depends on arrangements between the lawyer
and client. Usually, lawyers require an advance payment, often called
a retainer, to cover the initial work and court costs to be paid
on your behalf. In other matters, you will be billed at the end
of the month, or at the completion of the service, for services
and disbursements. Be sure to discuss your plans for payment with
the attorney when you discuss the fee.
A lawyer usually
makes only a nominal charge, if any, for your first office visit.
Only when actual time is spent working on a matter do lawyers charge
a fee. Then charges are usually influenced by the time and work
involved, the difficulty of the problem, the dollar amount involved,
the result, and the lawyer's experience.
In some cases,
your lawyer may take the case on a contingent fee basis. This means
that if your suit is successful, the lawyer receives a percentage
of the amount recovered for you, plus out-of-pocket expenses for
filing fees, reports and the like. If it is not successful, he or
she receives only these expenses.
As with any
other business relationship, fees and costs are important matters
that can breed future problems if there are misunderstandings. Provisions
for binding arbitration may be included in your Fee Agreement. A
WRITTEN FEE AGREEMENT IS ALWAYS ADVISABLE.
IF I AM NOT PLEASED WITH MY LAWYER?
If you aren't
happy with the way the attorney you've hired is handling your case,
you have the right to dismiss him or her and find another. You will
probably be responsible for paying for time and costs associated
with your case to that point, so it's not a step to be taken lightly.
That's also why it's important to read and understand any contract
for services you may have signed with an attorney to understand
what your financial responsibilities are if you decide to take your
Once your case
has progressed to the point where the attorney has appeared on your
behalf, a judge usually must approve a decision to take an attorney
off a case.
a client's problem with an attorney is a communications problem.
If this is so, you should certainly let your attorney know of your
displeasure and see if a solution can be reached before firing the
attorney or making any formal complaint.
If you feel
an attorney has not acted properly or ethically in your case, you
have the right to file a complaint against that attorney with The
Florida Bar. The Bar, under the direction of the Supreme Court of
Florida, is charged with prosecuting unethical attorneys.
If you feel
that an attorney has billed you improperly for services performed
or has failed to refund an unearned portion of an advance payment,
you may request that the dispute be submitted to arbitration. The
Florida Bar maintains a statewide Fee Arbitration Program to assist
in resolving fee disputes without the necessity of litigation.
For more information
about the complaint process, call the Bar's ACAP office at (866)352-0707
in this pamphlet represents general legal advice. Since the law
is continually changing, some provisions in this pamphlet may be
out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your
legal rights and responsibilities regarding your particular case.
Here to contact a lawyer.