Selecting an Attorney

Do I need an attorney?

It is recommended that you get an attorney, especially if you have minor children, own anything together or have debts.

Why are attorneys recommended?

You know more about your situation than anybody else. On a personal level, you are the experts. However, you are involved in a legal case in the court system. Whether or not you know or understand the law, it will impact your situation. It will affect you.

It is important for you to know the range of what the court might decide on the different issues in your situation and why. It is important for you to know the financial or tax ramifications or consequences of all of your decisions. It is important for you to know any legal consequences to your decisions, so you are not surprised or disappointed later.

How do I choose an attorney?

Ask your friends, family and other people you respect about who they would recommend, and why.

Call a few attorneys. Ask them any questions that are important to you.

From the Iowa State Bar Association:

Selecting an Iowa Lawyer

It is important to select an attorney who can help with the specific legal problem. Most lawyers practice in certain areas, and only take cases in their practice areas. An attorney who cannot help you may still be able to refer you to an attorney or law firm that does handle your type of legal matter. If you call a law office and learn they do not practice the type of law you need help with, ask them if they can recommend another firm.

The primary considerations in selecting an attorney should be whether you feel comfortable with the attorney and if you are confident that the attorney is competent in the particular field of expertise. The following questions should be helpful to most individuals in selecting an attorney:

  1. Has the attorney handled matters like this one before?
  2. Is there a charge for first-time consultation?
  3. How much does the attorney charge per hour, per task or work on a contingent fee basis?
  4. Will the attorney require a retainer payment before providing services?
  5. How many hours does the attorney believe it would take to complete the task?
  6. Does the attorney provide the client with a written contract or a letter confirming employment? If so, ask to see an example.
  7. Can the attorney explain to you what to expect and what issues will be generally involved in your case?
  8. Do you feel comfortable being open and honest with the attorney?
  9. Do you believe the attorney will be open and honest with you about your case

Legal Assistance in Iowa

The following information will assist you if you are in need of an attorney for a civil legal matter but cannot afford one.

In Iowa there are limited resources and programs available to provide free legal assistance. When you call a program to request assistance, you will be screened for eligibility. A client is eligible for assistance if their income falls within the established guidelines and if the case fits within the priorities set by the program. Not all clients who financially qualify will be able to receive assistance because of the limited staff or volunteer resources of the programs. An intake interview of your case may take place. The program will then assess your case to determine if they may be able to assist you. Your case may be handled by one of the staff attorneys at the program. In some circumstances your case will be referred to a private attorney who has volunteered their time to a pro bono program. A client should not contact the pro bono program directly for assistance as the intake needs to be conducted prior to referral to a volunteer.

Iowa Legal Aid Southwest Iowa Regional Office
532 First Avenue, Suite 300
Council Bluffs, IA 51503
(712) 328-3982 or (800)432-9229

Drake University Legal Clinic
2400 University Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50311

University of Iowa Clinical Law Program
University of Iowa Law School
386 Boyd Law Building
Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1113

ISBA Public Service Project
625 East Court Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50309

Some offices may have pre-set times and days in which new intakes are conducted. Contact the office listed to determine when and how your case may be considered.

For more information and help in finding and selecting a lawyer, click

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