There is certainly no shortage of attorneys in this country. In fact, in 2018 there were approximately 1.34 million attorneys in the United States. In New Jersey in 2017, there were approximately 41,168 resident and active attorneys in the state—this means there are 45.7 resident and active attorneys per every 10,000 New Jersey residents. New Jersey ranks seventh out of all the states for its active-and-resident attorney concentration.
You’ve chosen to hire an attorney to represent you during your legal dilemma—that’s a prudent choice! But who to hire? Selecting the right attorney from thousands of options in your area is critical to your case.
With so many attorneys to choose from, the selection process can be time-consuming and downright overwhelming. While the ultimate decision on who to hire is yours, it is crucial that you look out for these “red flags” when hiring an attorney:
Your attorney is not a member of the state bar or has bar complaints filed against him or her: If you’re looking for a New Jersey attorney, make sure the attorney you are considering hiring is a member of the New Jersey state bar. The right to practice law in the state of New Jersey, which is granted by the New Jersey Supreme Court, is an assurance that the attorney has been qualified to properly represent you. To practice law in New Jersey, all attorneys are required to be a member of the state bar of New Jersey. Click here to search the New Jersey attorney index for attorneys who have been admitted to practice in New Jersey, and to obtain information about attorneys, such as date of admission, status to practice law in New Jersey, and county and municipality of the business office of practicing attorneys.
Every state has a disciplinary organization that closely monitors and disciplines attorneys. If a complaint is made against an attorney, then the state’s disciplinary organization will investigate that complaint and determine whether the attorney has violated any ethical rules. If so, the organization will discipline the attorney accordingly. To look up whether a New Jersey attorney has been disciplined from 1984 to 2017, click here. It is in your best interests to thoroughly research an attorney’s disciplinary history, keeping in mind any disciplinary history and the specific circumstances surrounding each discipline. Never hire an attorney who is not eligible to practice law in your state.
You can never get in touch with your attorney: A lack of communication on the part of your attorney is a huge red flag. Sure, most attorneys, and especially those with established practices, have a large stable of clients and active cases and are busy professionals who are asked to simultaneously juggle many moving parts. However, this does not excuse being unreachable. If you haven’t been able to talk to your attorney since your initial consultation, this is a red flag. If you try to contact your attorney via phone or email and you constantly find yourself waiting days if not weeks (especially in time-sensitive or emergency situations), this is also a red flag.
You should always know where your case stands, what is going on with your case, and who is working on it. If your attorney can’t call or email you back right away, then a staff member at the law firm should contact you to help schedule a time in the near future for your attorney to call you or meet with you in person.
Your attorney is neither upfront nor transparent about his or her fees: Like most states, the rules of New Jersey Legal Ethics state that an attorney’s fees must be reasonable. Also, these rules require that when the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, the basis or rate of the fee shall be communicated in writing to the client before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation. Look for an attorney that is transparent, upfront, and candid about his or his fees. Be aware that there are many different types of payment structures including but not limited to retainers, contingency fees, flat fees, and hourly fees. Your attorney should be upfront about any additional fees, costs, and expenses too. For example, court filing fees, printing fees, and legal research fees. Be aware that there is not always a direct correlation between the cost of an attorney and quality—just because an attorney charges top dollar does not mean he or she is the best attorney.
If your attorney is not transparent about his or her fee structure, does not spend adequate time to make sure you understand it, changes fees without notice, does not provide you with complete invoicing and billing details, or seems secretive about fees, you need to speak up. If you’re not satisfied with the information, then it’s time to consider another attorney. You are not being annoying by speaking up but rather you are self-advocating. It’s your money and you have a right to know where it is going and how much things cost.
The red flags discussed in this blog are just some of the warning signs that indicate your attorney is a bad choice and you should find a different one. Additional red flags will be discussed in the soon-to-be-published second part of this blog.
If you are looking for a New Jersey criminal defense attorney, DUI attorney, traffic defense attorney, or immigration attorney, take a closer look at the Law Office of Eric M. Mark. We offer free 15 minute consultations. To schedule yours, contact us online here or you can reach us at:
Law Office of Eric M. Mark NEWARK OFFICE
201 Washington St.
Newark, NJ 07102
Phone: (973) 453-2009
Law Office of Eric M. Mark JERSEY CITY OFFICE *By appointment only
121 Newark Ave., Suite 515
Jersey City, NJ 07302
Phone: (201) 713-2227
Law Office of Eric M. Mark ELIZABETH OFFICE *By appointment only
20 Commerce Dr. Ste. 135
Cranford, NJ 07016
Phone: (908) 224-0442