Frequently Asked Questions
Your attorney should be trustworthy, reliable, and hardworking. He or she should also have experience handling the type of case you have. Finally, your attorney should be someone you get along with and trust. Good relationships make for better representation. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, such as certain criminal defense attorneys. Alan Dershowitz (one of OJ Simpson’s attorneys) is a great example. Plenty of people can’t stand him, but he’s a truly excellent attorney and worth every penny he charges. Exceptions like Dershowitz generally charge hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you’re not paying that kind of money for your attorney, find someone you genuinely get along with. They’ll usually work harder for you, be more interested in your case, and be more careful with your money than someone who doesn’t care about you one way or the other.
The best way to find an attorney is by asking an attorney you trust to recommend someone. If you don’t know an attorney, getting a referral from a friend is the next best bet. If you don’t have a friend who’s used a good attorney, a great way to find a good attorney is to research the bar associations that specialize in the area you need help in. For example, Ricketts & Yang is a member of the National Police Accountability Project; a client who needs a police misconduct lawyer would be well advised to check with that organization for a referral. Otherwise, you can always use Google or attorney ratings websites like Yelp or Avvo. There are also lawyer referral services in most cities – just Google the name of your neighborhood and “lawyer referral service” and you’ll likely find one.
At Ricketts & Yang, we accept police and employer misconduct cases on contingency, as well as whistleblower cases involving public employees who wish to expose a substantial amount of fraud being committed against the state or federal government. You can also find attorneys who will accept personal injury or worker’s compensation cases on contingency, although Ricketts & Yang does not handle those kinds of cases. In exceptional cases, you may be able to persuade some attorneys to take on a business or intellectual property litigation on a contingent basis. If you have a divorce, bankruptcy, child dependency, or criminal case, you should expect to pay as you go – or even up front – as no private attorney will take these cases without guaranteed payment.
As any attorney will tell you, litigation is highly unpredictable. At a minimum, cases usually take at least 10-15 hours of attorney time, plus at least $1,000 or so in costs, to settle very quickly. You can never count on this, even if it seems like it would make economic sense to just settle right away; people get emotional in litigation and don’t always settle when they should. A case that doesn’t settle all that quickly, but also doesn’t drag on forever, is likely to require between 60-100 attorney hours. And a case that goes to trial relatively smoothly can easily take 200-300 hours of attorney time. All this ignores the possibility that the case does not proceed smoothly. It also ignores the potential need to hire experts, which can cost anywhere from $2,000-$100,000 each, depending on the subject for which you need them to testify.
No. A lawsuit is a partnership between you and your lawyer. Your lawyers can handle many things for you, but they still need you to tell them what happened; provide them with documents like emails, letters, contracts, and other records; be available to answer questions and approve their plans; and review anything they will submit on your behalf. Often, you will need to sign documents to submit to court. You may be called to deposition, meaning an all-day, recorded and sworn interview with the other side’s attorneys – all under penalty of perjury. So if you’ve been sued, or if you’re planning to sue someone, be ready for a fair amount of work!
A motion is a written document that asks the court to do something for you. For example, you might want a preliminary injunction early in the case because the defendant is likely to cause irreparable harm to you, and even if you win later on at trial it will be too late to stop the damage. Some motions ask the court to force the other side to disclose things in discovery that they do not want to disclose (for example, a motion to compel). Some motions ask the court to award monetary sanctions or penalties against the other side for bad behavior during the litigation itself (such as a 128.5 motion). Some motions have to do with evidence, meaning you ask the court to stop the other side from even mentioning certain things in trial (for example, motions in limine). And some motions ask the court to get rid of all or part of the case (demurrer, motion for summary judgment, motion to dismiss, motion to strike). A motion that asks the court to throw out an entire case is called dispositive.
It always depends on the motion, of course. An anti-SLAPP motion, a Motion for Summary Judgment, or a Motion for Sanctions often take a lot of work, require a lot of evidence, and need upwards of 20, 30, even 40 hours for complicated ones. That said, these motions can be quite valuable strategically, so they’re sometimes well worth the expense. Discovery motions are closer to 5-10 hours. The time required can also decrease sometimes if we have a similar motion handy that’s worked before. The secret of practicing law is in reusing all our old stuff – that’s why older lawyers get to charge more. They have more material lying around, and are able to put things together faster as a result. Of course, sometimes the motion lost last time it was used, in which case you try to improve it.
Usually less time than a motion. Anywhere from between 5-10 hours is usually how much time it takes us.
You must always be kind and polite in deposition. The more annoying, the meaner, the more outrageous your questioner becomes, the more polite and kind you must become. Respond to them with cooperation. Do not get into an argument with them. Be assertive, and do not allow them to bully you into saying things you don’t mean; if they’re saying something that isn’t true, just say so calmly and politely. You can read more about what to expect in deposition here.