How to choose and hire a lawyer

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Selecting a good lawyer to represent you or advise you in India is an art in itself.

No wonder so many companies have full-time lawyers who specialise in, among other things, selecting and instructing the best legal representation for the best price.

We have compiled some tips to help you find the best legal representation.

Be prepared[edit]

Ask yourself very clearly why you need a lawyer, and what you would expect from them.

Ask yourself about outcomes: what is your best-case, ideal result, or what do you definitely not want to happen? For example:

  • Do you want the court to order someone else to pay you the money they owe you?
  • Do you want someone else to be forced to do something?
  • Do you want to avoid someone forcing you to do something?
  • Do you want your lawyer to draw up a contract?
  • Do you know what area of law your problem falls into? Family law? Criminal law? Commercial contract? Real estate? Etc?

If you know the law that applies to your case, read it first before you see a lawyer, or maybe do just a little bit of Googling first for the act or the problem you're facing. "The law isn't incomprehensible; don't rely entirely on any lawyer. Ever."[1]

Finally, ask yourself how much you think you can afford to spend. At the same time, be prepared for a good lawyer to tell you that they want more.

Find a lawyer[edit]

Ask friends and family for recommendations for lawyers they have used before.

Try to avoid a generalist. I.e., if your friend's friend used a lawyer for their divorce, that lawyer may not be very good at doing a real estate transaction (even if he or she claims to be an expert in everything).

It is best if that lawyer has some experience in the area of law your are looking for.

Talk to your potential lawyer[edit]

Once you have identified your potential lawyer candidate, call them, send them an email or schedule a visit.

  • Explain all the important facts of your case or work openly, honestly and as clearly as possible.
  • Ask your potential lawyer how exactly they will help you, step by step.
  • Ask for a realistic date for completion of every stage of that work.
  • Ask your lawyer about where potential delays could lie and how long they think it could take at most.

But beware: The time court cases in India take are notoriously unpredictable, and could run up into years or decades.

What your lawyer may tell you[edit]

"The Indian justice delivery system is highly unpredictable. When litigants approach a lawyer, some of them may make claims of ensuring the outcome within a certain amount of time. When faced with such claims, litigants should generally avoid engaging the lawyer."[2]

Lawyers may be prone to promise too much and deliver too little, so take whatever they say with a pinch of salt.

  • If your case is just the tiniest bit complicated, ask for something in writing from your lawyer explaining what they intend to do, even if they want to charge a little bit extra for it. If a lawyer says it's not necessary to give you anything in writing, often that means it is![3]

If you don't understand what your lawyer is telling you[edit]

If you're not sure about what your lawyer is telling you, ask them to explain what it means. If they can't even explain to you what they are doing, why would you trust them to explain it to the court or someone else?

Experience and age alone isn't a substitute for knowledge, so don't get intimidated by a lawyer referring to experience instead of explaining an opinion. As a client, you're entitled to explanations.

And if your lawyer says something that strikes you as odd, as a client, you're within your rights to ask for a legal basis, and to expect your lawyer to confirm using statute or case law.[4]

If you still don't understand, or your lawyer does not seem confident enough or you are simply not feeling comfortable with the lawyer, don't be afraid to take a second opinion from another lawyer. Better to wait a little while longer than to end up with a lawyer who gives you bad advice.[5]

References & credits[edit]