Learn More About Pennsylvania Law and Lawyers
Do I need an attorney at all?
There are a couple of questions which will help you decide whether you need to hire an attorney. What is at stake? Is it my liberty, my work, my home or property? If anything significant is at stake, it is usually a good idea to at least meet with an attorney to discuss your options. The second question is, how complicated is this? Unfortunately, when it comes to the law, there are not very many things that are simple and easy to understand and little mistakes in procedure or wording can seriously compromise your rights. Many people hire attorneys for their advice and counsel all the time. They are thinking about a problem and are not sure how to proceed, so they make an appointment to discuss their options.
When should I contact an attorney?
If you think you have a legal problem, it is usually better to contact an attorney sooner rather than later. Opportunities for a good resolution may disappear if you wait too long, and simple solutions are usually cheaper solutions.
Do attorneys always accept your case?
The simple answer is no. There are many reasons why an attorney may need to decline accepting your case, including the following reasons: if the case does not meet the legal standard of a "meritorious" or worthy claim; if the attorney has a conflict of interest or relationship with a person or company on the other side of your problem; if the attorney is not sufficiently knowledgeable or qualified to handle your problem; or if you and the attorney can't agree on the scope and strategy of the case.
What can I do to try and reduce the legal fees I spend on my attorney?
Be as organized as possible so that you are buying the attorney’s services/time as efficiently as possible. Before phoning or emailing the attorney, plan what topics or questions you need answered and restrict your conversation or email to brief and specific topics related only to your legal issue. Request a Written Fee Agreement in advance from the attorney to prepare yourself about what to expect and how to handle issues related to fees. Ask the attorney whether mediation, arbitration, or some other legal or non-legal solution might be a lower-cost way to handle your issue. Seek out local community mediation services or legal aid information. If you have a fixed amount of funds available, determine a legal budget and contact attorneys in your practice area until you can make a positive connection with an attorney who will fit your budget or who will be willing to take payments.
How can I start off on the best foot with my attorney?
From the first contact with the attorney’s office, conduct yourself best in a manner that is professional, organized, and courteous. For your first meeting, you want to make a good first impression, so be punctual and appropriately dressed. After all, no matter how personal or emotional your legal issue is, you are embarking on a business relationship with your attorney. Organize your thoughts, concerns, and legal goals in advance; consider writing a brief summary of the legal issue and possible questions you may have. See Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder’s Legal Tool Kit for ideas. Ask the attorney how you can best be involved in information or document gathering, evidence preservation, and goal setting. Ask the attorney how they typically handle communication with clients (phone or email) and how quickly you can expect responses to questions and issues as they come up. Ask the attorney how busy their workload is presently, when they will have time to begin work on your matter, and how long they think it may take to resolve your legal issue.
How can I tell if a lawyer would be a good fit for me?
That is a difficult question to answer because each legal issue is as different as each client and each lawyer. The final decision should probably come down to the lawyer whom you believe to have the best experience you need to help you with your legal matter and with whom you think you could have an effective and efficient professional relationship. In Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder's lawyer profiles, you can use the information the lawyer has provided for his / her listing to get a sense of the attorney's skills, experience, and personality. You can also go to the "What to Ask" section of legal areas within the Legal Tool Kit or "How to Hire a Pennsylvania Attorney" for questions or information about hiring an attorney.
Why is it not a good idea to choose my lawyer based on his / her hourly rate?
In law, as in many fields, hourly rates tend to increase with years of experience. With years of experience come efficiencies that may mean a more experienced lawyer can handle a legal issue in fewer billable hours than a less experienced lawyer might need. This doesn't mean a less experienced lawyer (with what may be a lower hourly rate) wouldn't be able to offer good legal service. It does mean, however, that you should probably use different criteria (like background, experience, skills, and personality) to decide whether a lawyer might be a good fit for your legal needs. When you first meet or speak to a lawyer about your legal issue, feel free to ask how many hours will likely be required to handle your legal needs. Also, keep in mind that some legal services are not charged by an hourly rate. See "What to Expect" within the "Legal Tool Kit" for your legal area or ask the lawyer how fees are typically charged for your type of legal need.
Why isn't my lawyer listed on Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder?
Lawyers need to advertise their services just like any other business and Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder is an advertising vehicle for lawyer members of the Allegheny County Bar Association. If your lawyer isn't listed with us, he / she may have chosen to spend marketing dollars elsewhere at this time.
Where can I find more information about my legal issue?
You can go to the Legal Tool Kit on Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder and choose a legal area and topic that is appropriate to your issue. Legal Tool Kit topics offer basic information about each area and are all available in a printer-friendly version for a list of questions or documents that may apply to your issue. Links to other resources for information are also posted within the Legal Tool Kit.
Where can I find out about a lawyer's education and experience?
Within each lawyer listing on Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder, there are folder tabs you can click on for more information about the lawyer. Lawyers can list participation in community or charitable organizations under the "Qualifications" or "Get to Know Me" tabs.
Where can I find a consumer-friendly explanation of a legal term?
Go to Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder's Legal Glossary for a selection of legal definitions written for consumers. If you don't find the term you're looking for, email us your term question through "Contact Us" and we'll get back to you with information about it within 2 business days. Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder's Legal Glossary is growing almost daily, so we may even add your term to our Legal Glossary for future visitors!
My question isn't answered in the Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder FAQs; can someone answer it?
Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder can't provide legal advice but we can answer general questions about legal areas or hiring lawyers. Go to "Contact Us" and email us your question and we'll try to answer it as best we can. If the question is beyond our ability to answer, we may be able to direct you to a lawyer or another legal information resource that could provide the answer. Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder's FAQs are growing almost daily and appropriate questions for Pittsburgh Lawyer Finder may even be added to our FAQs for future visitors!
I need to speak to a human being about my lawyer search. Where can I call?
The Allegheny County Bar Association's Phone Lawyer Referral Service has experienced operators who can speak to you, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4 pm. Call them at 412-261-5555 during business hours or leave a message there if you need to call at another time. Your call will be returned within 2 business days. You can also post email questions about your lawyer search through PittsburghLawyerFinder.org by going to "Contact Us" at the bottom of any page on the site. We will either reply by email or we'll forward requests to our Lawyer Referral team to phone you back as appropriate.