Imagine for a moment that you’re about to get into a Pirates of the Caribbean-style swordfight. But you’re prepared; your designated swordsman is at your side, and he’s promised to take care of everything. The enemy advances. You double-check with your swordsman and say, “You know how to use that particular weapon, right?”
And he looks at you, shrugs, and says, “I mean, I took fencing classes a couple years ago…so…I can probably figure it out, right?”
Not what you wanted to hear, right? But the fact is, if you jump into an attorney-client relationship without doing your due diligence, that’s exactly what it could feel like. If a case goes to trial, most cases can run years–so whichever attorney you hire, you’re latching yourself to someone you’ll be in a relationship with for a very long time.
Here’s what to ask an attorney before you hire them.
How many cases have you actually tried that involve copyright infringement?
Don’t worry if their answer to this question isn’t particularly high; that doesn’t reflect on them directly as an attorney. Most copyright infringement cases don’t go to trial. But still, this is an important question to ask so you get a good sense of their professional experience.
How many copyright cases have you worked on in your career?
This number should be much higher. You want an attorney who, ideally, has worked on copyright infringement cases so often that they could do it in their sleep. A good attorney will know how to simplify the process for you, and make things run smoothly–and that knowledge is something only won by experience a-plenty.
Where have you worked on these cases?
Local and federal rules can differ greatly for these types of cases. Unfortunately, that means that if you’re interviewing a rockstar attorney who has a ton of experience in California copyright infringement cases, they might not be quite so helpful to you in Tennessee. It’s absolutely vital that your attorney has experience with not only your type of case, but also in your particular location.
What would your costs for a case like this look like?
Attorneys all have slightly different ways of charging for cases, and you want to make sure that you can set your expectations right out of the gate. It’s important to know that creating a budget is a common move.
Look at how much you can afford to pay, set it aside, and inform the attorney of your budget; “I have X amount of dollars. Will you handle the case for this fee?”
This is a question that you are perfectly within your rights to ask. You should also ask if they’ll take a flat fee, or if they have separate charges for particular motions versus the initial filing. If all their other answers are in line, getting your finances sorted is the final–and perhaps most important–step.
Hiring an attorney is a huge deal. You don’t want to be neck-deep in a case, only to find out that this person you’re in a professional relationship with isn’t actually a great match. By asking these four questions, you can save yourself pain down the road.