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Questions you should ask your lawyer

How to choose a private lawyer to help you with your legal issue.

If you need a lawyer, it’s important that you find the right one for you. Here are some helpful questions you should ask them before making your decision.

Is my first appointment free?

Some private lawyers provide the first appointment free. Ask about this when you make an appointment.

How much experience do you have in this area of work?

When you are looking for a lawyer, do some research. When you book your appointment, ask what experience the lawyer has and how many cases they’ve worked on with similar circumstances to yours. Also find out who will actually be doing the work. Ask to be told if your work is referred to another lawyer in the firm.

What options do I have to resolve my problem?

Ask the lawyer to outline what options are available to you to try to resolve your legal problem. This should help you choose the option/s that suit you best. If you don’t understand something, ask the lawyer to explain. Ask about ways to solve your problem without going to court.

What are my chances of success?

Ask the lawyer about your chances of success. Discuss what you would consider to be a successful result. Take time to think things over.

How will my matter be managed?

Make sure the lawyer understands what you want to achieve. Ask them to explain how the work will be done and the steps involved. Also ask about how they will keep you up to date on the progress of your case.

How long will it take?

Ask if anything can be done to speed things up. Ask if there might be delays and how they can be avoided.

How much will it cost?

Shop around, and remember, you can negotiate. Cost is not the only factor in choosing a lawyer. In most cases a lawyer must advise you in writing how much the work will cost or, if that is not possible, how costs will be calculated. Before you decide on your lawyer, ask if they allow payment plans.

Ask if they will take the case on a ‘no win, no fee basis’, and if so, what this means. ‘No win, no fee’ does not mean completely free – you may need to pay the other side’s costs if you lose, and also ‘disbursements’ like the cost of medical reports.

Ask what else you might have to pay and if you have to pay anyone else’s legal costs if you lose the case. Tell the lawyer you want to be kept informed about costs as the case progresses.

Don’t sign any agreement about fees unless you understand it and are happy with it.

When do I have to pay?

In most cases your lawyer must advise you in advance and in writing how and when you will have to pay. You are entitled to receive a detailed bill before you pay.

You may need to pay some money up front. Some lawyers will agree to wait until the matter ends before you pay them.

Remember how and when you pay can always be negotiated.

What if I have a problem with my bill or my lawyer?

You should first try to resolve the problem with your lawyer. You are entitled to have your bill reviewed if you are not happy with it. Contact the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner for advice about this or any other problems you are having with your lawyer.

Where can I get more information?

LawAccess NSW

LawAccess NSW is a free government service that provides legal information and referrals for people in NSW. You can call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 or access their webchat function at www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au.

How can I find a private lawyer?

Law Society of NSW Solicitor Referral Service

The fastest way to request a referral from this service is to complete an online referral request at www.lawsociety.com.au. You can also phone or email. Call 02 9926 0300 or 1800 422 713 (outside Sydney) or email ereferral@lawsocnsw.asn.au .

What if I have a complaint about a private lawyer?

Contact the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC). The easiest way to make a complaint is on the OLSC complaint portal on their website at www.olsc.nsw.gov.au. You can also download a complaint form or write a letter or email. Call 02 9377 1800 or 1800 242 958 (outside Sydney) or email olsc@justice.nsw.gov.au .

October 2022