Tips for hiring a private lawyer

There are some legal problems you might be able to handle yourself. Then there are times when you may need to hire a private lawyer. Whether or not you need a lawyer will depend on your time, knowledge and resources and the type of legal problem you have.

You should try to at least get some preliminary legal advice before you decide if you will hire a lawyer to help with your problem. You need to make sure you get the right lawyer for your particular problem. You should also try and find out before about their costs and fees.  

This information is to help you if you are thinking about hiring a private lawyer. Find out:

  • how to find the lawyer you need
  • how to prepare for your first appointment
  • some important things to think about and ask your lawyer.

How do I find the lawyer I need?

There are many ways that you might find a lawyer:

  • a recommendation from someone you know – a friend, relative, employer, union or professional
  • looking in the phone book or seeing an advertisement
  • searching on the internet, or
  • asking a local law firm in your area.

The Law Society of WA also has a free directory of its members.

What’s the difference between barristers and solicitors?

Barristers and solicitors are both lawyers. A solicitor meets with you, gives you legal advice, negotiates for you, and prepares letters, contracts and court documents. Solicitors will sometimes hire a barrister to appear in court for you. A barrister is a lawyer that specialises in court work and normally only takes on cases referred to them by solicitors. 

In WA, lawyers are allowed to work as both a barrister and a solicitor. Most of the time, the lawyer you hire will do the work of a solicitor and can also appear for you in court. You should ask them if the matter will involve going to court, and if they will appear for you in court.

Can I get free advice before hiring a lawyer?

The first appointment is a good chance to get some initial advice and get more information to help decide if you should use that lawyer. Some lawyers do not charge for the first appointment. You need to ask about this when you are making an appointment.  

First appointments are often short, so be prepared with a summary of your problem and a list of questions to ask the lawyer. If there are important documents, put them in order in a file and bring it with you.

Here are some questions you should ask a lawyer early on:
  • What experience do you have with these types of problems or cases?
  • What are my options? Do I need a lawyer for all of those options?
  • What is the likely outcome? What if I lose?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses in my case?
  • How long will it take to resolve the situation?
  • What fees do you charge? What other expenses will there be?
  • Who will be working on my case? Who will I be dealing with and how will they update me about my case?
  • Is a grant of legal aid available?

What else should I look for in a lawyer?

  • Look for a lawyer who treats you fairly and with respect. They should want to help you.
  • A lawyer’s job is to give advice on your options. You are the person who gets to decide what option to take, after thinking about that advice. 
  • A lawyer's discussions with you are confidential.
  • Don't be afraid to ask something for fear of looking stupid. If you're not sure, ask!
  • Shop around. Be aware that cost and quality of service may vary. However, don't expect a lawyer to give you full advice for free.
  • Don't judge a lawyer by their age, office or the size of their firm. The key thing is their experience in dealing with your sort of legal problem.
  • Get clear advice about the end result, including what legal costs you might have to pay.  

 

More information

The Legal Profession Complaints Committee has fact sheets to help people when hiring a lawyer:

 

Reviewed: 11 April 2018

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.