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Finding the Right Lawyer: Practical Tips for the Sexual Assault Survivor

NCJ Number
Sexual Assault Report Volume: 5 Issue: 6 Dated: July/August 2002 Pages: 81-82,95,96
Michael Paul Thomas Esq.; Mitchell L. Leverett Esq.
Joan Zorza Esq.
Date Published
July 2002
4 pages
This article provides practical information for sexual assault survivors in finding a civil lawyer, hiring a lawyer, and discharging an unacceptable lawyer.
In the first part of a two-part series, this article attempts to assist victims of sexual assault in knowing where and how to find the right lawyer, hiring a lawyer and the fee agreement, and the process by which to discharge or terminate a lawyer when the lawyer has failed to adequately represent the victim. It is especially important to select the “right” lawyer in a sexual assault case. There are two steps that are necessary when knowing where to look. First, get the names of some prospects but focus on lawyers who are permitted to practice law in the State where the incident occurred. Potential prospects can be located by contacting national, State, and local rape crisis centers, county bar associations, family and friends, and law schools and searching the Internet, yellow pages, and radio and television advertisements. The second step is for the survivor to set up an appointment with all those hopefully qualified attorneys. The survivor should explain the case and ask several pertinent questions, looking for favorable answers to the majority of questions. When hiring a lawyer, the survivor should examine and understand the fee agreement which includes retainer fees and contingency fees. Even after doing everything possible to attain the “right” lawyer, the survivor may find that he or she did not make the right choice. The client has the absolute right to fire or release his or her lawyer at any time. To do this, the client must make it clear that the lawyer no longer represents him or her, and it should be done in writing. The fee agreement must also be understood and reviewed in order to determine what may or may not be owed to the lawyer prior to release. The second part of this article will explore how to intelligently evaluate a lawyer before hiring him or her to handle a civil sexual assault lawsuit on the survivor’s behalf.


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