What questions to ask a NSW will dispute lawyer in your selection process?
Starting your claim or your defence of a claim on the right track is extremely important. I have seen my opposition start down the wrong track and then try to backtrack resulting in costly work attempting to correct errors. In one particular case, after two years incorrect preparation by my opposition the case went to a hearing before a judge and only then did the opposition realise they were wrong.
The best way for you to ensure you get the correct start is to talk to an experienced solicitor about you case. If you decide you don't want to call me that's OK but do yourself a favour and ask which ever solicitor you do call a number of questions to attempt to ascertain his or her knowledge, experience and commitment to you.
- How many claimants or defendants has he or she represented in this area of law?
- Does he or she work solely in wills and estates law or also other areas of law as well?
- Unfortunately in NSW in Queensland there is no law saying you can’t call yourself a “specialist”. You are allowed to. So you need to ask is he or she accredited if you want certainty about his or her ability in this law.
- If he or she is an Accredited Specialist, is that Specialisation in Wills & Estates Law or some other law such as General Litigation, Personal Injury, Compensation Law or Family Law (Divorce Law)?
- What is his or her workload. How many files are they handling at the one time?
- How many other office staff in the firm will be working on your file and billing you for their work?
- What will the legal costs be and can you have a copy of any proposed legal costs agreement to allow you to read the fine print before you engage him or her.
Verbal guarantees about legal fees are not worth anything. Costs agreements are required to be in writing if the fees exceed $1500 in most States. At the end of the day a court costs assessor will look at the written agreement unless of course you can prove your solicitor was guilty of misconduct. Hard to prove.
I am not suggesting that a solicitor with no experience in wills and estates or with no specialist accreditation in wills and estates, working in other areas of law and with staff to help, is not capable of doing the work for you perfectly well. That would be an absurd suggestion because all lawyers are well educated in the law and well trained. You may well end up with a speedy outcome incurring reasonable legal costs with a fine result.
What I do suggest is that you ask questions of prospective solicitors during your selection process to ensure that you have enough information to make an educated decision about your final choice.
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