Questions & Answers
Are there advantages to working with local lawyers who might know the opposing lawyers and the judge?
Judges are required to remain neutral in handling cases. Judicial bias or favoritism is a basis for recusal and/or disciplinary action against the judge. Similarly, opposing counsel are required to maintain absolute loyalty towards their own clients: any favoritism towards the opposing attorney can result in discipline of the lawyer and/or a malpractice lawsuit. Geographical proximity is the wrong way to choose a lawyer. The correct way to choose the Right Attorney is outlined in an article I wrote. Focus on the lawyer’s credentials, morals, and the value of the lawyer’s representation. Such information should be available on the lawyer’s website. If it’s not, move on.
Will I win, and how much will it cost me?
Lawyers are strictly forbidden from providing clients with predictions, guarantees, or warranties. A lawyer cannot tell you or even know if you will win your case because nobody knows the future. Whether a lawyer has won past cases or not is irrelevant. Each case is different, with its own strengths and weaknesses and with its own set of unique facts. The better the facts are in your case, the stronger case you may have. A great lawyer seeks to maximize the strengths of your case and defend its weaknesses. As to how much a lawyer’s representation will cost you really depends on how much work the attorney has to do for you. You can read more about Attorney’s Fees and Limited Scope Representation in these articles that I wrote. Ultimately, the best way to save on attorney’s fees may be to hire an attorney well before heading into complex legal terrain or iffy situations so that hopefully you can avoid legal troubles rather than try to fix major mistakes: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as Benjamin Franklin said.
What is the statute of limitations for my case?
Please read some general and useful information about a few statutes of limitations here on the California Courts website; here on the New York State Court website; here on the Washington State Legislature website; here on the Massachusetts Court website; or here on the Washington DC Code website. Please note that statutes of limitations may vary in different geographic areas and jurisdictions based on the law relevant in your matter, so make sure to consult the appropriate State’s website for the statute of limitations information relevant to you. It remains your sole responsibility to learn about and comply with the statute of limitations deadlines relevant to your legal issues until you hire an attorney whose contractual scope of representation expressly entails such work.
What if I cannot afford to hire an attorney?
You may consider hiring an attorney through Limited Scope Representation, as that might be more affordable for you. If that is not affordable either, then you may consider representing yourself. In such instances, it’s recommended that you make good use of your local law library in your County, seek self-help resources from your Court’s online website, and consult with self-help guides published by various private companies. Finally, there are various non-profit organizations that offer free or reduced-rate legal help to indigent persons or others, particularly in the areas of tenant disputes, criminal defense and related appeals, disability law matters, or civil liberties issues. You can search online for guidance in your community or contact the National Lawyers Guild, the ACLU, or similar groups for a referral.
What are the steps involved in dealing with a legal matter?
This is a more complicated question and is truly case dependent. In any legal matter, the first step involves an attorney’s meticulous review and analysis of all the case documents and communications. This may be followed by informal or formal communications with relevant parties including the opposing party. Then, there might be Alternative Dispute Resolution efforts involved, such as mediation or arbitration. Depending on the matter, the dispute may head to a complaint being filed in an administrative setting or in a Court of Law. Litigation refers to the processing of a dispute between two opposing parties in a Court, and this may involve several steps including but not limited to: the filing of a Complaint or a Response to the same (depending on whether you’re the Plaintiff or Defendant); filing of formal requests made by the parties to the Court (called “Motions”) and attending Court hearings related to them; Discovery requests and responses which involve the exchange of various documents, testimony, and other case information between the parties; and Trial. Settlement discussions might potentially occur at any stage of a dispute, potentially even during the midst of a Trial. Clearly, there can be many complicated procedural and substantive elements in any dispute. This is why it’s so important to hire the right attorney. Here’s a guide as to what you should look for when making that key hiring decision.
What will be required from me if I hire an attorney?
Apart from timely paying an attorney for representation, your consistent cooperation will be required for a fruitful attorney-client relationship. This involves always being honest and forthcoming with your lawyer, timely providing your lawyer with all requested documentation, promptly replying to your lawyer’s phone calls and emails, checking your voicemail and emails regularly each day, keeping your case documents organized, abiding by all deadlines set by your lawyer, respecting your lawyer’s advice, keeping confidential your case details and communications with your lawyer, treating your lawyer and all involved in your dispute with respect and politeness, and abiding by the law so as to not exacerbate your case. A good client is just as important as a good lawyer, and a good attorney-client team can be quite productive.
Mr. Shahrestani is passionate about education and providing context for people to better understand the justice system. Feel free to peruse his extensive catalog of writings on the blog, or browse some articles below.
Rated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer, a recipient of multiple professional honors, and seen on Fox and ABC News and in the SF Chronicle, Attorney Ali Shahrestani accepts high-stakes and high-conflict legal matters in Divorce, Education, Business, and Criminal Law throughout CA, NY, WA, MA & DC.