Just like medicine, the practice of law has become so specialized that most lawyers have specific areas of expertise. For example, there are attorneys who focus strictly on family law, others who specialize in personal injury and those who handle real estate law. Because of the trend towards specialization, not all lawyers will want to take on all cases or have the expertise to handle a particular case. One area of legal specialization that has garnered a lot of interest in recent years is that of consumer fraud.
Consumer fraud happens when an individual or business entity knowingly makes false or misleading statements to another party during a business transaction, knowingly sells a defective product or fails to provide a promised service that resulted in harm to the consumer. A consumer fraud attorney specializes in fighting for people who have been victims of these unfair and deceptive business practices.
Finding a competent consumer fraud lawyer requires asking the right people the right questions. The search should begin by asking family members, friends, coworkers and acquaintances if they have had, or if they know of anyone who has had, experiences with a consumer fraud attorney. Another avenue should be explored is asking any attorneys outside of the practice of consumer fraud who they know who handles these types of cases. Calling the State Bar for referrals there’s another valid option. Finally, you can do an online search for “consumer fraud attorneys near me.” Once a list of names has been compiled, the next step is to perform some research on the attorneys.
The vetting process should always begin by contacting the state legal bar and confirming all the attorneys you are considering are in good standing. Of course, any who are not should be disqualified. The next step is to call the attorneys on the list and inquire if they are actively handling these types of cases and taking new clients. If so, ask the attorney if they offer a free consultation and how they charge. Most often attorneys who handle these types of cases work on a contingency fee. If the attorney’s answers to these questions seem satisfactory, then ask to schedule an appointment to meet in person to discuss the case. At the meeting, discuss the following topics:
- Inquire about the attorney’s history of success in consumer fraud cases and if they are willing to go to trial, if necessary. As hard as it is to believe, many attorneys have never faced a jury because they always work to settle cases out of court. While this is not necessarily a bad practice, the attorney for the other side will know about their opposition’s ability to try a case. If the plaintiff’s attorney has no track record in court, it will not inspire the defendant to make as good a settlement offer compared to knowing the plaintiff’s attorney is a killer in court.
- Ask the attorney what their track record is in court to get an understanding for the chances of success for the case. Ask about cases the attorney has won and lost and what the settlement offers or judgments were.
- As the expenses to handle a case can runs into the tens of thousands of dollars, it is important to determine if the attorney has sufficient financial resources to handle the case. Things like filing motions and handling discovery, expert witnesses and the hours of time it requires to prepare a case require resources. If the attorney is working on a contingency basis, then all of these expenses will be coming out of his pocket. The office and surroundings are usually a good clue to his success in the absence of a substantial track records as a successful attorney will have a fairly nice office and support staff.
- See if the attorney will allow the contacting of his past clients. Any competent attorney will have a long list of satisfied clients and will be happy to provide these as references. If the attorney refuses, it may be because they don’t have any satisfied clients.
Irrelevant of how he was initially contacted, performing some due diligence will help to determine if the attorney is a good fit for a particular case. Choosing an attorney is not an easy decision and the more information that can be gathered will help to make a more informed decision. Parker Waichman LLP is a national law firm handling cases across the U.S. Contact them to day for a free, no obligation consultation.