Legal issues happen every day. They are common in society and happen to all walks of life. Chances are you don’t come in contact with many attorneys and do not need legal services very often. But when you do face legal issues, you likely will have questions. You might ask yourself, what are my rights? What options do I have? Who do I turn to for help?

Whether your rights are properly protected largely depends on having the right attorney. But how do you know how to pick the right attorney? Below is a brief list of questions your attorney should be prepared to answer to help you make more informed decisions, get the right representation, and get the results you need.

What areas of law do you practice?

Those who are not familiar with the legal profession may think that an attorney knows everything about every area of law. Though many attorneys may like to think they know everything, the reality is that most individual attorneys specialize in only a handful of types of law. Family law attorneys are best equipped to handle a divorce, just the same as a real estate attorney is best to review an offer to purchase or a deed. By analogy, you wouldn’t go to a podiatrist (foot doctor) for a head injury, nor would you take the medicine he prescribes.

What kind of specialized knowledge or training do you possess?

This question is less about experience than it is about passion. You want an attorney who is passionate about what they do. Ask why they became an attorney, or why they chose a specific field. Find out what motivates them. Ask what specialized training or advanced knowledge they have. An attorney who is passionate about what they do knows more about the law, strives for success, and is better equipped to handle your legal issues.

What kind of experience do you have?

Whether it’s the number of years, or the number of cases, an attorney must have experience. You hire an attorney because he or she knows the system, knows which strategies work, and can offer you certainty. An experienced attorney not only knows how to obtain results, but also knows when to protect their clients. Discretion is a major factor in most any case. It takes experience to know when to be aggressive, and when to practice discretion.

What would you consider to be a successful result in my case?

An attorney needs to be able to restate your goals, clearly and precisely. If he cannot do this, then he has an agenda of his own, isn’t listening, or just doesn’t care. None of which you want in an attorney. Instead, an attorney who can clearly state your goals understands his purpose in the legal matter, which in turn leads to more efficient and effective representation. You should be able to collaborate with your attorney regarding goals and strategies. An open dialogue needs to be established, so that you can monitor progress and will feel comfortable knowing that your case is advancing toward your goals. Most importantly, you need to be able to trust that your attorney is representing you and your best interests.

Warning signs that an attorney might not represent you or your best interests:

He is distracted. He won’t return your phone calls. He cannot reframe your legal goals and appears to have his own agenda. He forgets important aspects of your case, such as relevant facts, goals, or strategies. And he appears to not appreciate your concerns.

Ultimately, you want an attorney you can trust with the biggest problems in your life. If they appear to be distracted, like their mind is somewhere else, then you should be somewhere else. An attorney needs knowledge and experience, but most of all, they need to listen.