Lawsuits in general are difficult and can be emotionally draining. Defamation lawsuits are even more so because lies and falsehoods are at issue and personal/business reputations are under attack. It can be enraging really, with the thought being that “… it is unfair, unjust and just plain mean for people to lie and cause me and my business to suffer.” Or, conversely, “… how dare they accuse me of lying!” This is one of many reasons that it is essential to hire an experienced defamation lawyer to prosecute your case or handle your defense. Your dedicated and trusted lawyer will provide a crucial “buffer” between you and those liars or false accusers. Plus, you will have the benefit of their legal advice and counsel about how to obtain justice and/or protect yourself. But, finding the right defamation lawyer can be tough. So, here are five questions that you should ask when hiring a defamation attorney.
1. What is your experience and background in handling defamation cases?
You want an attorney who has experience with defamation cases and a deep understanding of defamation law in the jurisdiction where the case will be filed or has been filed. Defamation law is similar, but there are important differences and nuances in each jurisdiction. Thus, you want to ask about how many defamation cases your potential attorney has handled and in what jurisdictions. You may also want to ask about success stories and even unsuccessful cases. When discussing either type of case, ask why the cases were successful or not successful. The answers you receive will inform you about your case and your potential attorney’s competence.
2. What other types of cases do you handle?
Few attorneys handle defamation cases exclusively. So, it is useful to know what other types of cases your potential attorney handles. This will give you more information about the attorney’s experience, background and depth of legal knowledge.
3. What should I expect with a defamation lawsuit?
Unless you have been through litigation before, you may not understand what to expect with a defamation lawsuit. In other words, it is useful to know something about the process and what will be expected of you in that process. Ask about things like interrogatories, document requests, depositions, attending pre-trial hearings and about the trial. Ask about settlement negotiations, how those are conducted and whether settlement is a possibility. You may not know what those things are, which is why you should ask about them. Learning about the process is also another way of gauging your potential attorney’s experience, background and depth of legal knowledge.
4. What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
You want to hire a defamation lawyer that will give you an honest legal assessment of your case; not a lawyer that just wants a fee-generating case. Thus, it is important to give your potential lawyer the important details of your case. Then, ask for an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your case. No case is a “slam dunk” and you do NOT want to just ask “will I win?” If your potential attorney is able to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, you will gain a better understanding of whether “you will win” and also learn about how knowledgeable and competent your potential lawyer will be.
5. What about court fees, legal fees, costs and expenses?
Finally, you need to know what to expect in terms of financial costs. These involve court fees, legal fees, costs and expenses. What does your potential lawyer charge by the hour? What costs will be “passed through” to you with an expectation that you will pay those costs. Can fees and costs be recovered from the case if you win? What about other costs like deposition and transcription fees?
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