Where do I find a lawyer in Tampa, Florida?
Finding an appropriate lawyer that suits your legal needs can be daunting, especially for one with many options. The Tampa, Florida area is home to thousands of lawyers, each with differing practice areas and expertise. Luckily, all Tampa lawyers, as well as all Florida legal professionals must be members of the Florida Bar Association. With the Florida Bar ensuring that lawyer deals are accurate, fair and professional, you can be assured that almost any Tampa lawyer you choose will be able to provide you with the best possible representation or service.
What are some issues specific to Tampa, Florida?
Tampa has grown significantly in recent decades owing to an influx of both young professionals and retirees. As such, you will find many probate, real estate and commercial lawyers available for Tampa residents. Real estate and commercial law practice in particular is of importance due to the continuing economic redevelopment and growth as a major economic hub in the Southeastern US. Those seeking to relocate, buy property or open a business in Tampa should consult with a Tampa lawyer immediately. A local lawyer familiar with both state and municipal ordinances will be your best asset when dealing with a number of legal matters in Florida.
What are organizations of Tampa lawyers?
The Florida Bar is a mandatory membership organization for Florida lawyers and is the third largest Bar Association in America, with over 90,000 members. As an integrated Bar Association, they determine the standards of professionalism and ethics that all Florida lawyers must abide by. In addition, the Bar is responsible for discipline and sanctioning unethical or unprofessional attorneys. The FlaBar sets standards for continuing legal education and ethics panels for lawyers in the state. Most importantly, the Florida Bar maintains a Lawyer Referral Service that can connect residents to a Sarasota lawyer for a nominal fee.
There are a number of voluntary Bar Associations specific to Tampa as well. The biggest of these is the Hillsborough County Bar Association with 3,700 legal professionals as members. The HCBA offers sectional membership, typically at no fee for joining members, with the exception of family law, trial lawyers and environmental land use lawyers. The HCBA publication, the LAWYER publishes nine times a year and carried news and opinions as well as advertising relevant to Tampa lawyers. Among the services for lawyers are Continuing Legal Education courses on developments in Florida and federal law and court access cards to expedite entry into the local courthouse.
Other local Bar Associations of Tampa lawyers include:
- Manatee County Bar Association
- Fred G. Minnis Sr. Bar Association
- Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association
- Tampa Bay Hispanic Bar Association
- Federal Bar Association (Tampa Bay Chapter)
How do I know my Tampa lawyer is legitimate?
All individuals that practice law in the state of Florida must be active members of the integrated Florida Bar Association. If the individual claiming to be a lawyer cannot show proof of Bar Association membership, then this legal professional is very suspect. Do not accept services from an unlicensed legal professional as you will have no guarantee that they work they complete will be legitimate or if that individual will behave ethically. Remember that legitimate lawyers will afford clients the right to file complaints with the FlaBar and enter arbitration if necessary. You will have no recourse if you are defrauded by an unlicensed lawyer.
Picking a member of the Hillsborough County Bar Association is also preferable as you will be assured that this lawyer is familiar with any unique municipal laws or judicial precedents applicable to the city of Tampa. You may also feel comfortable working with a member of the other more specialized bar associations for highly technical legal matters.
If you ever have doubts about the credentials of your Florida lawyer, ask to examine those credentials. If the lawyer cannot produce them, then you may want to seek out another lawyer that you feel comfortable working with. A call to the Florida Bar can also help verify if a lawyer is legitimate and may practice law in Florida.
What are the typical rates of a Tampa lawyer?
Flat fees are convenient rates that are generally assessed for limited legal services that do not require going to trial. This can include mediation services, contract preparation and probate services. Flat fees can also be assessed to review existing documents and prepare petitions for bankruptcy. Feel free to as Tampa lawyers about flat fee services as this can save clients with limited and specific needs significantly legal expenses. Consultations are usually flat fees, if not waived for certain cases.
Contingency fees are typical of accident, negligence and malpractice cases. These consultations are typically free. In this arrangement, the lawyer does not collect a fee unless there is a settlement or jury award. Florida has specific and extensive rules on contingency fees including:
- Fees no greater than 33.3% for a case settled out of court with a settlement under $1 million, 30% for amounts between $1 and $2 million.
- For both settlements and winnings at trial exceeding $2 million, the limitation on the fee is 20%.
- If the amount of damages must be determined in court, the contingency fee will be 20% for amounts between $1 and $2 million and 15% for amounts greater than two million.
There are conditional contingency fees that can be assessed for post-trial judgments, and limitations on fees collected from medical malpractice claims. When working out a contingency arrangement with a Tampa lawyer, ensure that you are informed on the various rules regarding contingency arrangements.
Take advantage of free consultations when they are available to discuss potential fees and payment arrangements with Tampa lawyers. The above fees do not consider court costs, which are also paid by the client. You may be able to arrange low cost and extended payment for legal services at the discretion of the attorney or law firm.
There are several lawyer referral services for Florida lawyers, although none is more trusted than the Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service. The service will provide you with the name and address of a nearby lawyer who will charge $25 for a half hour initial consultation. There is no obligation at that point and the consultation is merely an evaluation of your case with an explanation of expected fees. There are also free panels for individuals that need lawyers that specialize in elder, AIDS and disability law. All lawyers participating in the LRS are in good standing with the FlaBar, have no outstanding complaints against them and will have professional liability insurance with limits of at least $100,000.
What are questions to ask Tampa lawyers?
How does my case relate to Florida state and local Tampa laws?
What are your fees and do you have alternate payment plans?
Are you an active member, in good standing, of the Florida Bar Association?
What roles do you play as a member?
Can I please have all fees in writing?
What are my chances of winning a settlement or at trial?
Can you refer me to another lawyer if you are unable to take my case?
Those seeking a lawyer in Tampa will have a number of options available to find a reliable legal professional. Firstly, all lawyers in Tampa are certified and regulated by the mandatory membership Florida Bar. This means that all clients of Tampa Bay lawyers are assured satisfaction in their dealings with their lawyer or they may seek arbitration and dispute resolution with the FlaBar. Lawyers in Tampa will be knowledgeable about issues that might affect your case, particularly local legal trends and laws that will impact the judgment. For those that simply need a legal matter taken care of, many lawyers in Tampa devoted to a specific practice area will provide flat rate services to prepare documents and non-trial services. This is convenient and is also beneficial for the lawyer in Tampa as they will be able to handle multiple clients through this arrangement.
Be aware when seeking a lawyer in Tampa, that there are complicated limitations on contingency fees that prevent too much of a jury award or settlement from being collected at the detriment of the client. You should consult with your Tampa bay lawyer about relevant restrictions on contingency fees before agreeing to a payment plan or other legal service arrangement. Take advantage of free consultations when available and if you have sufficient need, there are a number of South Florida pro bono organizations that will help indigent persons with legal matters. The local bar association and FlaBar will be able to assist clients seeking these services. Remember that the Florida Lawyer Referral Service will also be able to connect clients to lawyers in Tampa.