If you are reading this article, you may have already started to compare and interview lawyers who are offering to take your case. Asking the right questions during your search for representation can aid in you getting the successful result you deserve. When you ask the right questions, you avoid entrusting your claim to the wrong person. There are certain questions to ask a disability lawyer before you hire them.
Below, I have compiled a list of 12 key questions to make sure you are making an informed decision before signing your case away to a firm.
You can also check out our Ultimate Guide to Disability Lawyers in Ontario for even more information about the hiring journey.
How much experience do you have with my case type?
It is important to understand whether or not the individual you hire actually has experience working with your type of claim. It can definitely be a hindrance to your case if the lawyer you hire doesn’t have the knowledge and has to do the homework before they even get started. You will have a better chance of success with someone who is already experienced and knowledgeable with a disability claim.
A good follow-up question if they do have experience is “How long have you worked in disability claims and appeals?” The lawyer that will be the right fit for you should have experience in the area that you need help — not someone who has a general practice and isn’t up to speed.
How much experience do you have practicing law?
Asking someone how much experience they have practicing law may not be the most important question, but it does give you a better understanding of the individual overall. Keep in mind that the answer to this question won’t necessarily reveal whether or not they’re a good lawyer. There are some lawyers that will have just started out that may be stellar. A new lawyer can still win your case and make sure you feel supported the whole time.
In contrast, longevity doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the right fit for you. Somebody who has been practicing for a really long time could be stuck in their ways. They may have lost their ability to empathize or to have a good “bedside manner,” so to speak.
If you’d like more background about the lawyer or the firm, you can ask how long the firm has been in practice and how long they’ve been taking on disability claims and appeals.
How much of your practice is dedicated to disability claims and appeals?
A good indicator to compare different firms with each other is to ask how much of the practice is dedicated to disability claims. This way, you can better understand which law firm weighs more value in these types of claims and has more experience.
Typically, it’s best to find a firm that specializes in disability — not a general practice firm. This will help you know for sure that, in addition to a knowledgeable lawyer working on your case, the other individuals in the law firm have experience as well.
A follow-up question that can help you understand this specifically and might help compare different firms is “How many disability cases do you currently have?”
Will you be the lawyer assigned to my file?
One thing to be clear on is who exactly is going to be working on your case. If it’s not the person you’re actually speaking with during the consultation, it’s good to ask questions that you might have about the actual individual who may be assigned. You might ask some of the first questions I listed above, such as: “Is the lawyer experienced with disability claims?”
“Do they currently have cases assigned to them that are specifically my claim type?”
What is your fee structure?
In my opinion, this is one of the most important questions to ask. Money will likely be at the forefront of your mind. It’s crucial for you to understand how the firm charges for their services. Is it a flat fee? Do they charge hourly? Will it be a contingency fee or payment plan?
Once they describe exactly how they charge for their services, be sure to follow up with any questions you still have. For example, if they typically operate on a contingency fee basis, it may be useful to ask them how exactly that works. You might want to ask for a draft copy of what the agreement would look like so you know what to expect if you hire them.
Do you ever adjust your fees based on unexpected circumstances or length of case time?
It’s important to ask if there is any chance that they would adjust fees based on unexpected circumstances. This could include length of case or any other reason that might be written into the contract — or not written!
Some law firms will only charge you based on how long you’ve been working with the firm and how long the case is taking. Others might reduce fees if you have another case with them and there ends up being a lien. In some cases, law firms have a “fair fee” policy or something similar. For us, we evaluate at the end of each case if the fee being charged else is fair or if it should be reduced. We take a few factors into consideration, including time worked on the file and any other fees associated with the case. You always have the right to have your local law society review any charges.
What is your average case turnaround time?
This is pretty straightforward. Not every firm knows the exact average length of time your case should take, but they should have a general range in mind. Knowing the approximate length can help you understand the best and worst case scenarios for your case in the timeframe you’re looking at.
Would you suggest full representation, or do you offer a one-time service for my situation?
It is good to be clear on what options you have other than full representation. Ask the firm’s honest opinion whether or not full representation or one-time service is best, and why. Get them to explain what both services would entail so that you can compare. Consider their answer and your own opinion to decide how you would move forward if you were to hire them for your case.
If I decide to hire you, how will you handle my case?
It is critical to know how your case would actually be handled at the firm if you do decide to hire them to represent you. It is absolutely reasonable to want to know what their expected outcome looks like.
This is also the point where I would ask what you should expect from the process. You may want to ask what steps they will take, what those steps actually look like, and the length of time for each step.
Are there submissions to the court? Is there a lawsuit involved? Do they need to order documents or write briefs? Will there be interviews, discoveries, mediations, or trials involved? It’s even better to ask follow-up questions like these so that you know exactly what you’re getting into.
How often will I receive updates?
You should know how frequently you will receive updates on your case. You will want to ask whether or not it is your responsibility to check in, or how frequently they will be checking in with you. It is important to know what you will have access to. Will you be able to view your documents online? Will they have paper copies sent regularly or given at the end of your case?
I recommend also getting clear on what their expectations are for you. There are situations where you will need to provide updates to the lawyer or firm. Should you call them or email them after every appointment? Should you be getting certain documents for them or checking in on documents yourself?
How will you communicate with me?
This falls in line with the last point. Not only is it critical to know how often you’ll receive updates — it’s also important to know how those updates will be given. Will they be provided via telephone, in-person meeting, videoconference, or an online client portal?
You should also be clear on how you will be able to contact them when you need to touch base. Will you be able to contact the lawyer directly? Will you be assigned a case manager or a paralegal to communicate with?
If I don’t hire you, do you have other lawyers you would recommend?
You should always ask if the law firm has a referral. If you end up not choosing them, or if they aren’t able to represent you for some reason, you can ask for suggestions of where else you may be able to go.
To be clear, however, not everyone will have a referral. They might not know anyone, or they may not feel comfortable referring you to someone else that they don’t trust or don’t know well enough. If they do recommend someone else, it is up to you to do your homework and responsibly make the decision whether or not you would like to hire them. Lucky for you, you can start right back at question #1.
Understanding who you are hiring and what that fully entails are key factors you need to evaluate when deciding how to move forward with your claim. These 12 questions to ask a disability lawyer are important to ask; however, they are just a suggested list. You may have many other factors and questions you may need to take into account in proceeding through your own hiring journey.
If you want to maximize your chances at success or wish to foolproof the hiring process, we have created a guide that can serve as a more complete roadmap for you in the chaotic world of hiring a lawyer for disability claims.
The 7-Step Guide to Hiring a Lawyer can lead you towards the peace of mind that you are making the right choice. One sure path to success is empowering your decisions by educating yourself ahead of your consultations and conversations. Click the image below to download the guide for free.