Identifying a Legal Problem
Contacting a Lawyer
Choosing a Lawyer
Fees/Costs and Initial Consultation
Questions to Ask
Finding the Public Disciplinary History, Membership Status and Contact Information of an Attorney
Clients' Security Fund
Filing a Grievance
Legal Resources by Subject
The best way to determine whether you have a legal problem or need legal assistance is to speak with a lawyer. One good way to start is to ask friends, teachers, co-workers, an employer, relatives, neighbors or anyone you trust which lawyer(s) they have used and if they did a good job.
You should be aware that in metropolitan areas particularly, many lawyers' practices may be limited to certain areas of the law. For example, some lawyers may practice only criminal law, while others may practice only civil law. If the lawyer you were directed to by someone you trust does not practice in the area appropriate for your issue, ask for a referral to a lawyer who does practice in that area.
Many online resources are available for selecting a lawyer in your geographic area and in the area of expertise you need. The following is a list of suggestions that may help you as you seek a lawyer to speak with about your potential legal problem:
Once you have decided which lawyer to call, you should ask the lawyer whether he/she charges a fee for the initial consultation (first visit), and if so, how much. Please understand that depending on the practice area, a lawyer may charge a reasonable fee for a consultation. Whether a lawyer will charge a fee for the consultation varies based on practice area and the amount of time spent with a potential client during the initial consultation.
If you decide after the first meeting that you want to hire the lawyer to represent you in the legal matter, you may want to ask for an estimated cost for services. Many lawyers will enter into a written agreement listing the fees, costs and the nature and extent of the lawyer's representation. Costs are different from fees and in civil cases include such items as filing fees, costs for a sheriff or process server to serve process in your case, copies and mediator fees. Always remember that the client is ultimately responsible for court costs, filing fees, etc.
The first time that you meet with a lawyer, you should be prepared to discuss and ask questions in regards to the facts of the potential legal problem that brings you to the lawyer's office. The questions below are ideas for a potential client to ask the lawyer.
Make sure you fully explain your situation to your lawyer. Bring any papers or documents you think may help explain the story to the initial consultation. Make sure your lawyer covers both practical solutions to the problems as well as options available under the law. Do not try to convince the lawyer of the merits of your position by exaggerating the facts. If you know, make sure you tell the lawyer the position taken by the potential adverse party. Be sure to tell the lawyer the complete truth so that he or she can best advise you.
It is important to discuss with the lawyer how much experience she has in dealing with cases similar to yours. If the lawyer doubts her competence to handle the matter then be sure to ask for a referral to other lawyers who are familiar with cases such as yours. Also ask about the outcome of the other cases that the lawyer has handled, as well as whether or not the anticipated fees and costs that you have been quoted by the lawyer is in line with the fees and costs charged in the other cases.
The lawyer should be able to give you some idea of the legal fees as well as costs (expenses for the action) associated with the legal matter for which he is agreeing to represent you. Whether you, as the client, will be charged on an hourly basis or a contingent fee basis, the reason for the fee should be fully explained to you. Before actually agreeing that the lawyer will represent you, feel free to get an explanation of the fee in writing from the lawyer and signed by both of you. See the definitions below for fees.
Below are some questions that may aid you in your discussions with the lawyer as you seek to determine the length of time expected to solve your legal problem.
Ask the lawyer to explain the law as it relates to your case and the effect which existing laws may have on your case. It is extremely important that both the client and lawyer fully understand each other with regard to the results expected. This should play a big part in determining whether or not the cost and the time involved in pursuing the matter are worth what is expected as a result.
The lawyer and client should agree on what expectations that each have, such as settlement, mediation or trial, and how the lawyer will try to obtain those expectations. The client has a right to expect a status report of the case.
The general public now has more access than ever before to information about attorneys who are members of the State Bar of Georgia. The State Bar has considerably improved reporting of lawyer discipline information on the Bar's website. By going to the Member Directory and conducting a member directory search, anyone can look up an attorney and learn more about them. The website improvements allow users to see an attorney's public disciplinary record online, if such disciplinary record exists, as well as their current membership status and contact information. Click here to begin searching the Member Directory.
The public has long been able to get this information by calling the State Bar. Now the information is also available via the Internet, any time, any day. The website displays a wide variety of sanctions, and consumers can easily read case summaries so they know why the lawyer was disciplined. The site also provides definitions of terminology, for ease of understanding.
Visitors to the site are able to review an attorney's public disciplinary history, if any exists, as far back as January 1995. Click here to find which attorneys have been disciplined most recently.
If you have any questions or would like information about an attorney's public disciplinary history prior to January 1995, as always, you may contact the Office of the General Counsel at 404-527-8720.
If you have any questions about an attorney's membership status, you may contact the Membership Department at 404-527-8777.
Please Note: With a few exceptions, attorneys who wish to practice law in Georgia are required to be members of the State Bar of Georgia. However, because of privacy concerns, some attorneys choose not to be listed in the Member Directory found on the Bar's website.
The Clients' Security Fund of the State Bar of Georgia was initially created by Resolution of the Board of Governors on March 29, 1968, at Stone Mountain, Ga. ". . . for the purpose of maintaining the integrity and protecting the good name of the legal profession by reimbursing to the extent deemed proper and feasible by the Board losses caused by the dishonest conduct of members of the State Bar of Georgia."
In 1991, the Supreme Court of Georgia adopted the Rules of the Clients' Security Fund as Part X of the State Bar Rules. The Fund fulfills, in part, the duty of the legal profession to keep faith with the public and serves to maintain the profession's collective reputation for honesty and trustworthiness. Attorneys from the State Bar of Georgia Office of the General Counsel act as staff for the Clients' Security Fund.
Click here to review the rules of the Clients' Security Fund.
If you feel an attorney has engaged in unethical behavior, prior to filing a grievance, we encourage you to contact the Bar's Client Assistance Program. CAP responds to all inquiries from the public regarding all licensed attorneys and assists the public through informal methods to resolve inquiries which may involve minor violations of disciplinary standards by attorneys.
Visit this page to find links to many law or government related resources and organizations throughout the state.