Suggested Questions to Ask a Prospective Attorney
Attorney’s Background and Experience
- How many years have you been in practice?
- Do you have any experience with [your legal issue]? With issues of sexual orientation and/or HIV? How many cases in this area? How did these cases turn out? Have you represented other lesbian/gay/transgender/HIV+ clients?
- Do you have any personal doubts about the equality rights of gays/lesbians and/or people with HIV/AIDS?
- Are you familiar with the special strategy problems which often exist in cases involving sexual orientation and/or AIDS? How do you feel about the personal and political decisions I may make that will affect the strategy of my case, like being open about my sexual orientation or living with a lover during the course of my case?
- Are you aware of the types of arguments that will be used against me?
- Are you willing to accept help (for example, sample briefs, articles, lists of cases, transcripts of other hearings, lists of experts, consultations) from lesbian and gay organizations?
- How do you feel about using expert witnesses on issues of sexual orientation? Have you ever used one in such a case as this?
- Who will be doing most of the work on my case – you or an assistant? What experience does your assistant have with this type of case? Will you consult with another lawyer? Can I meet the other people involved in my case?
Keeping Me Informed
- How will we stay in touch as the case proceeds? When can you be reached? What about weekends and evenings?
- Will you consult with me before making major decisions about the case? Will you keep me up-to-date on significant developments in the case? Will you provide me with regular updates about the case?
My Legal Options, My Chances of Success, and Other Considerations
- What are the different avenues or strategies that might be open to me to resolve this problem? What are the pros and cons of these different approaches?
- What will I personally be required to do in the course of pursuing this case? What information about me may be at issue if I pursue this case? (E.g., will I have my deposition taken, undergo medical or other evaluations, have my employment/personal history disclosed?)
- What are my chances of success? What can I expect to win if the case succeeds? What other factors do you advise that I weigh in deciding whether or how to pursue this matter?
- How long do you expect this case to take? Will you prepare an estimated timetable?
Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
- Is there an initial consultation fee?
- Do you require a retainer?
- How do you bill for your services? Do you charge an hourly rate? What are the hourly rates for you and others who would work on my case?
- Do you accept contingency fee arrangements?
- What other costs might be involved?
- Will you bill periodically as the case progresses? Will you supply itemized bills?
- What do you estimate will be my total attorneys’ fees and costs?