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If you haven't before now, probably sometime in your own lifetime you will need to hire an attorney. With the help of my interview with Tampa Attorney Christina Mesa, here is a variety of responses to typical as well as important questions.

1. QUESTION: Do I need to hire an attorney or lawyer in the county where the problem occurs?
ANSWER: No. Many lawyers or attorneys practice in other counties and other states, based on their licensure for the latter. Having experience in the county in which the matter is being litigated is crucial as that attorney will have a comfort level with the county courthouse personnel, lawyers (likely opposing lawyer) and judges. One consideration in retaining legal counsel away from area wherein the matter takes place is cost of journey time. Some attorneys don't charge for travel, others offer a lowered rate or preserve a billable rate for all work carried out. Talk about that question with each lawyer consulted.

2. QUESTION: How may I make certain my attorney is resolving my issues?
ANSWER: Every good attorney monitors his time (fees) and expenses (costs). Your retainer arrangement should include a statement of how the attorney bills his clients - in advancemonthly, quarterly, etc. You may also track your case in some jurisidictions that supply on-line accessibility to case dockets. If the county has that set up, you're wise to periodically review the docket and see what activities have occurred by your attorney and the other party/counsel. Also feel comfortable contacting your attorney at intervals to determine the status of the issue, understanding you will likely be charged for these communications.

3. QUESTION: Exactly how do I pick an attorney or lawyer?
ANSWER: Legal issues are as vast as those in other sectors, such as medicine, construction, finance, etc. and usually are just as complicated. To protect your rights and remedies, the ideal practice is to study your area of need and research what attorneys are around to assist you. A referral from somebody you know and respect can add a personal element to the consideration to hire an law firm but should not be the exclusive reason counsel is picked. Look into the attorney's background of schooling, expertise and area(s) of practice. Asking basic questions should be encouraged in this process. Self-help could be empowering but can also reduce or negate your recovery. Hiring a legal professional should be considered with the same degree of thought and consideration as that directed at the selection of a physician, accountant, financial consultant or therapist.

4. QUESTION: How do I determine if I will need a legal professional?
ANSWER: If you have already been served with a Summons and similar documents (Complaint, Petition, Motion), you should endeavor to seek out legal guidance now. Papers filed in court that begin a lawsuit call for responses that involve exact deadlines; missing those deadlines could compromise your defense, limit or avoid your recovery. Some concerns by statute involve a "pre-suit" period that allow you to consider the legal issues and possible resolution before a suit is filed. Similarly, seeking a lawyer immediately is recommended.

5. QUESTION: What is mediation?
ANSWER: Mediation is a process whereby the parties to the matter present at an agreed place with their counsel (if retained) and a chosen mediator to try and resolve all or a number of the problems involved. Mediators need to be unrelated to all parties and the litigation at issue, are to stay impartial amongst the parties and their counsel, and maintain the confidential aspect of the conference to encourage settlement and resolution. Typically the parties share the charge of the mediation evenly but other arrangements may be made if all parties are in agreement ahead of the conference. Mediation is normally required in just about every case filed in court and before a trial is held.

6. QUESTION: What type of attorney at law do I need?
ANSWER: Again, like other sectors, lawyers may concentrate in a specific or more than one area. Similarly, law offices may specialize, offer general legal needs or provide services in several precise areas of law. Trial attorneys deal with cases involving lawsuits; family law lawyers handle divorce cases, child custody/visitation, child support, alimony and associated matters; general practitioners handle almost all matters. Some areas of law are extremely technical, like bankruptcy or taxation; others are delineated by statute, such as worker's compensation. Any lawyer should be able to talk about your particular issue, determine if he/she is qualified to take care of such matters or advise you of the need to speak with another in a specialised area.

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