Questions to Ask Your Prospective Attorney

Choosing an attorney to help resolve your personal injury or wrongful death issue can be intimidating. Knowing what questions to ask and whether an attorney is a good choice are important to ensuring your case has the best chance for a favorable outcome. To help you make your decision, the legal team at Robinson Calcagnie Robinson Shapiro Davis‚ Inc. (RCRSD) is offering the below sample questions and explanations.

Do you (the attorney) hold a Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review rating?

As the only national organization providing a rating of both an attorney’s ethics and legal abilities‚ Martindale-Hubbell (M-H) can provide you with an overall picture of a particular attorney’s capabilities‚ as identified by his or her peers. To determine an attorney’s rating‚ M-H sends thousands of rating forms to attorneys in their local areas and asks them to evaluate a designated attorney for ethics and legal ability. As a closed evaluation process‚ lawyers are encouraged to be honest about the attorney they are evaluating.

(If yes to the above question) What is your Martindale-Hubbell rating?

For legal ability‚ ratings range as follows‚ from lowest to highest:

  • Unrated = Insufficient information to rate the attorney (not “bad”)
  • C = Good
  • B = Very Good
  • A = Excellent

The highest rating for an attorney’s ethical standards is “V.” If an attorney tells you they are rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell‚ it is a very good sign. To verify an attorney’s rating‚ visit http://www.martindale.com/Products_and_Services/Peer_Review_Ratings.aspx.

Which legal organization memberships or certifications do you hold?

There are numerous prominent legal organizations on a local‚ national and international level that offer membership and/or certification to qualifying attorneys. If an attorney is invited or accepted into organizations‚ it is a testament to his or her legal ability‚ trial experience/skills‚ ethics and caliber of person. A few of these organizations include:

  • International Academy of Trial Lawyers– Induction by invitation only and to attorneys with the highest degree of personal and legal ethics (limited to only the top 500 U.S. trial lawyers).
  • American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) – Offers membership to only the most talented‚ qualified and ethical attorneys who have tried at least 20 major jury trials to conclusion.
  • National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) – Being board certified with NBTA not only requires a minimum of jury trials tried to conclusion‚ but also completion and passing of a written examination set taken under strict settings.

Additional organizations include the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) and the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC)‚ among others.

Are you an active member in these organizations and associations?

It is critical for the practitioner of any profession to not just belong to professional associations and organizations of his or her field, but to also be an active member. In the legal field‚ membership to some of these organizations, such as the State Bar of California, are mandatory, while others are completely voluntary and offer many opportunities for professional growth. Attorneys can chair committees and boards‚ participate in and conduct continuing education classes, and be instrumental in sharing pertinent information with lawyers across the country.

Have you been formally recognized as having trial experience? If so, in what areas of trial practice?

Completing all the research‚ investigation and discovery for a case and presenting it to a jury are two very different entities. If your potential case goes to trial‚ you want an attorney who is practiced and comfortable in that setting. While state Bars do not distinguish “trial lawyers” from those who are not‚ there are several organizations that recognize attorneys for their trial experience. A few include Consumer Attorneys of California‚ ABOTA and NBTA.

Are you actively trying cases before juries? If so‚ what types of cases, and were the outcomes what you expected?

Personal injury and wrongful death cases typically involve disputes over who is at-fault for the injury/death‚ the value of the injury/death‚ the nature and extent of injury‚ if the injury was actually caused by accident‚ and many other issues. These disputes often require a jury trial to resolve the issue. If your case goes to trial‚ you may want a trial attorney who is not only experienced in litigation‚ but has personally tried cases.

In what courts are you admitted to practice law?

While passing the state Bar examination entitles an attorney to practice within the courts of that state‚ the circumstances of a personal injury or wrongful death case may require admission to other courts. It is important to know where a particular attorney can and cannot practice.

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