Looking for information about lawyers and the law? Choose from the following links of frequently asked questions to help find your answers!
WHEN DO I NEED A LAWYER?
Timely legal advice can resolve problems or prevent problems from occurring. For example, a lawyer can assist when starting a business or signing a contract which will have a major financial impact. Generally, you will need a lawyer when being sued or charged with a crime. Consider hiring a lawyer:
- before you sign a contract with a major financial impact on you,
- when starting a business or forming a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company,
- before you buy or sell real estate,
- if you are involved in an accident resulting in injury to one or more persons or damage to property,
- when you need to have a will or trust drafted or plan your estate,
- if you are involved in a divorce, domestic relations issue or an adoption,
- if you are arrested and charged with a crime,
- if you have a lawsuit filed against you or you wish to file a lawsuit against someone else.
These are just some of the instances in which a lawyer's services can benefit you. Whenever possible, you should see a lawyer at an early stage of a legal issue.
WHAT IF I NEED LEGAL REPRESENTATION BUT CAN'T AFFORD AN ATTORNEY?
If you are unable to afford a lawyer, and meet strict income requirements, you may qualify for free legal assistance in civil cases, depending on your income and the type of legal problem you have. Connecticut has four legal services agencies. All clients are initially referred to a legal services agency through Statewide Legal Services—(800)453-3320—or in criminal cases, the Public Defender's Office. The types of cases handled by legal services lawyers include: domestic relations, housing, access to government benefits, and employment discrimination.
WHAT IS THE LAWYER-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP LIKE?
When you have selected a lawyer, you should take certain steps to ensure a smooth-working relationship. As a client, you should:
- Tell the truth and disclose all known facts about your legal matter, even those facts which you think are damaging to your case. A lawyer cannot effectively represent you unless you relate all of the facts involved in your case.
- Bring copies of all documents, letters and other correspondence relating to your legal matter when you meet with your lawyer. Provide your lawyer with a list of all names, addresses, and telephone numbers of persons involved in the case. These steps will avoid unnecessary delays.
- Ask your lawyer to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Ask your lawyer what outcome, or outcomes, you can reasonably expect from your case.
- Take your lawyer's advice seriously. Your lawyer is a professional. If you do not have confidence in your lawyer's ability to make sound legal decisions about your case, you should probably seek a different lawyer.
- Keep your lawyer fully informed about new developments in your case. Save all documents relating to your case and provide copies to your lawyer on a timely basis. Do not let your lawyer be surprised later by a disclosure you should have made earlier.
- Ask your lawyer to keep you fully informed about new developments relating to your case. Request that copies of all documents and correspondence prepared on your behalf by your lawyer be sent to you.
- If you do not understand something that your lawyer says, ask for an explanation.
- Do not sign any agreement until you fully understand its provisions.
Your lawyer, in turn, should take certain steps to ensure a smooth working relationship with you and to affect the best possible result for your legal matter. Your lawyer should:
- Disclose to you in a timely fashion any new developments relating to your legal matter and how those developments might be handled.
- Return all phone calls made by you.
- Keep you fully informed about the impact of any actions that are contemplated.
- Furnish you with a written fee agreement (required by the Rules of Professional Conduct) and disclose to you in a timely fashion any unanticipated costs relating to your legal matter.
- Bill you periodically and promptly for fees paid and services rendered.
- Understand your goals and expectations for resolving the matter. Discuss these goals and expectations to ensure they are reasonable.
- Listen to you and be attentive to your concerns.
WHAT SHOULD I ASK A LAWYER?
Before hiring a lawyer, consider interviewing several lawyers. Write down the information you receive from these interviews. Keep in mind they may charge a fee for the interview. You may want to ask the following questions:
- What experience does the lawyer have in your particular type of legal matter?
- How will you be expected to participate in the case?
- Does the attorney carry malpractice insurance?
- Will the lawyer personally work on your case? If not, who will be working on it—lawyers, legal assistants, or both?
- What are the lawyer's hourly fees and what services are included with those fees? What is an estimated total fee for your type of case?
- What payment options are available, and how frequently will you be billed?
HOW ARE LAWYERS PAID?
There are several types of fee arrangements. The fee arrangement will depend on the type of case, the amount of research or court time involved, and the length of time it will likely take to resolve the matter. The Rules of Professional Conduct in Connecticut generally require a lawyer who is retained by a new client to provide in writing to the client the basis or rate of the fee and the scope of the matter to be undertaken. Here are some of the most common fee arrangements:
Fixed fee: This type of charge is commonly used for routine legal matters, such as a routine real estate closing or a simple will. Be sure when you agree to a fixed fee that you are told in advance what services you will receive for the fee. Also ask what is not covered that could result in additional expenses for you.
Hourly rate: A lawyer sometimes bases the fee on a fixed dollar amount for each hour or part of an hour spent working on your legal matter. Hourly rates can vary, depending on the lawyer. Ask your lawyer about the hourly rate and ask for an estimate of how many hours will be spent on your behalf. Ask if other attorneys or employees at the firm will be spending time on your case and at what rate you will be billed for their time.
Retainer fee: Businesses and some individuals employ a lawyer on a retainer basis. This means the lawyer accepts a down payment toward a fee for legal services. In exchange for the retainer, the lawyer will be available to work for you on any agreed upon legal matter which may require his or her services. You may have to pay additional costs for services involving extra time and effort by your lawyer. Your lawyer should explain the particulars of your retainer agreement to you in advance, since there are several different types of retainer agreements.
Contingency fee: This type of charge is commonly used in accident cases involving personal injury, when you are suing somebody for money. The fee is contingent upon the lawyer obtaining a monetary award or settlement for you. The lawyer is entitled to a certain percentage of the money if you win or settle out of court. If you lose, the lawyer does not generally receive a fee. Be aware when you agree to a contingency fee arrangement that you are usually responsible for paying any court costs and other litigation expenses, like the cost of expert witnesses, whether you win or settle out of court. These costs and litigation expenses may be deducted from the monetary award you receive. Make sure you know in advance the lawyer's percentage of the award or settlement and whether the lawyer's fee will be paid before or after court and other costs are deducted. A lawyer is required to give you a written copy of a contingency fee agreement. Contingency fees are not permitted for representing a defendant in a criminal case or in a domestic relations matter involving divorce, alimony or support (or a property settlement in place of alimony or support).
WHAT IF I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY LAWYER?
Some problems between lawyers and clients are the result of misunderstandings or a lack of communication. If you believe you have a problem with your lawyer, consider talking it over with the lawyer. The lawyer may be unaware of the problem and, after a discussion, you may be able to come to a mutually acceptable solution. If the lawyer is unwilling to talk to you, write a letter expressing the problem and ask for a response from your lawyer. If your lawyer does not respond, consider hiring another lawyer. Ask that your files be sent to your new lawyer.
If you are unable to resolve a disagreement over fees, you can contact the CBA's Resolution of Legal Fee Disputes program at (860)223-4400. The service is free.
If you believe your lawyer has acted unethically, talk to the lawyer. If the lawyer is unwilling to talk or meet with you, contact the Statewide Grievance Committee at (860)568-5157. The Statewide Grievance Committee is part of the Connecticut Judicial Branch and has the authority to investigate complaints of alleged ethical violations by lawyers in Connecticut.
WHAT RESOURCES FROM THE CBA MIGHT BE HELPFUL TO ME?
The CBA produces a number of client information pamphlets, listed below, which may help you answer your legal questions. To view this information, click on the topic that interests you: These documents are in a .pdf format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader to be opened. You can download a FREE version of Acrobat Reader at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html if you do not currently have the software.
Buying a Home
Selling a Home
Your Rights When Arrested
Dissolution of Marriage
Why You Should Have a Will
If You Are in a Car Accident
Is a Living Trust for You?
WHAT OTHER LEGAL RESOURCES MAY BE HELPFUL TO ME?
AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
GREATER BRIDGEPORT BAR ASSOCIATION
1000 Lafayette Blvd
Bridgeport, CT 06604
COMMISSION ON OFFICIAL LEGAL PUBLICATIONS
111 Phoenix Avenue
Enfield, CT 06082
CONNECTICUT BAR FOUNDATION -- IOLTA
31 Pratt Street, Suite 420
Hartford, CT 06103-1631
CONNECTICUT ATTORNEYS TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY
101 Corporate Place
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
CONNECTICUT TRIAL LAWYERS ASSOCIATION
100 Pearl Street
Hartford, CT 06103
LAWYERS CONCERNED FOR LAWYERS
2301 Silas Deane Highway
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICES
HARTFORD COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION
179 Allyn Street, Suite 210
Hartford, CT 06103
NEW HAVEN COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION
PO Box 1441
New Haven, CT 06506
FAIRFIELD COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION
970 Summer Street
Stamford, CT 06905
STATE BAR EXAMINING COMMITTEE
100 Washington Street
Hartford, CT 06106
STATE OF CONNECTICUT GENERAL INFORMATION
CONNECTICUT LEGISLATIVE MANAGEMENT
CONNECTICUT STATE LIBRARY
STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
287 Main Street
East Hartford, CT 06118-1885
STATEWIDE LEGAL SERVICES OF CONNECTICUT
425 Main Street, 4th floor
Middletown, CT 06457
New Britain (860)515-5080
New Haven (203)503-6800
New London (860)443-5363
Windham (860) 928-7749
Willimantic (860) 423-8491
Bridgeport Law Library
Danbury Law Library
Hartford Law Library
Litchfield Law Library
Middletown Law Library
New Britain Law Library
New Haven Law Library
New London Law Library
Putnam Law Library
Rockville Law Library
Stamford Law Library
Waterbury Law Library