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Find The Right Attorney

One of the most important decisions that an investor or financial professional can make in the securities arbitration process is the selection of a securities attorney. Securities arbitration is a unique and complex process, that requires a special skill set for a successful outcome.

Securities arbitration is not the civil court arbitration proceeding that some investors might be familiar with. This is not the setting where one sits in a conference room with the other side and talks about the case, hoping to reach a resolution. A securities arbitration hearing is a trial, conducted in a conference room, but with most of the formality and structure of a trial. There are opening statements, and objections, and most importanly, cross-examination of all witnesses by the other sides' attorney.

Financial professionals and brokerage firms know the importance of using experienced securities attorneys. They have attorneys on retainer or on staff who are knowledgable not only regarding the securities arbitration process, but the rules and regulations that govern the securities business. Investors however, often turn to a family friend or other non securities attorney for this important representation.

This often sets an investor up for a less than ideal outcome. The respondents are represented by a securities attorney with years of securities arbitration experience, and the investor is represented by an experienced personal injury attorney. The firm's securities attorney has handled hundreds of arbitrations and hearings, and the investor's attorney has handled two. That match-up cannot possibly benefit the investor in the case. Worse, some investors use the services of non-attorneys, so called investor arbitration consultants, for this important representation.

Arbitration consultants, who are not attorneys, and in some cases are actually former brokers who were barred from the securities industry, simply do not have the training that an attorney has. Incredibly, they charge the same fees as attorneys.

With one's career, or life savings, on the line, why would anyone trust this important service to an inexperienced attorney or a former broker?

There is no reason to do so. Virtually every securities arbitration attorney in the country will represent an injured customer with a valid claim on a contingency, charging a small flat fee plus a percentage of the ultimate recovery. No recovery, no fee. On the broker side, while contingencies are not available, reasonble hourly rates are.

How To Find a Securities Attorney Specializing in Securities. If you need help in finding a attorney who specializes in resolving securities complaints, you may want to try the following: If you already have a lawyer, consult with him or her about your options and whether you need a lawyer who specializes in securities law. You may want to call several bar associations to obtain a varied listing of attorneys in your area, but make sure that the listings are for securities litigation attorneys, not personal injury lawyers.

Broaden your list of potential securities attorneys by consulting directories of attorneys. Martindale-Hubbell and Findlaw both have websites with attorney directories, by area of practice. Keep in mind that attorney in these directories have paid to be in those directories, and are not necessarily your best choice.

You can search Google and Yahoo! for securities attorneys. Simply use the search phrase "securities attorney" or "securities lawyer" or "securities arbitration attorney" and you will find the web sites of attorneys practicing in the area. Once again, be careful of "sponsored" listings at these search engines, for those listings are paid for by the attorney. Google and Yahoo! display results in what the search engine believes is the most relevant sites. The top listings in Google and Yahoo should be the web sites which are referred to by other web sites, and an excellent place to start your attorney search.

The physical location of the attorney is not as important as the experience and qualifications of the attorney. Attorneys who represent parties in securities arbitration cases do not need to be admitted to practice law in the state where you live, or where the arbitration is held.

What you need to know. Whether you are an investor, or a financial professional, there are important facts that you need to know from your proposed attorney, and questions that you should ask. Do not be embarrassed or afraid to ask these questions - your attorney is actually expecting you to ask these questions - or at least he should be if he is truly an experienced securities attorney

Experience. What specific background does the attorney have in arbitrating securities claims? Ask how many arbitration cases he has handled, and more importantly, how many cases he has actually taken to a hearing. An attorney who has handled 100 cases, but only 10 hearings, is not an experienced attorney. He may be a great negotiator, since he must settle over 90% of his cases, but he is not experienced at conducting arbitration hearings. You may want a quick settlement, and this might be a positive factor. But if you are serious about recovering your losses, or defending your license, this may not be the attorney for you.

Accessibility. Who will be your contact person at the firm, and make sure there is a specific person who you can call with questions or for updates. Ideally you should be able to speak to the attorney handling your case, but for routine matters, an associate or paralegal should be available to answer questions and return telephone calls within a few hours. Ask for the individual attorney's email address, and find out if he can communicate with you by email, which is often the best way to get answers to your questions.

Extent of evaluation. Whether you are an investor or a broker, it is important to know that your case will be scrutinized for all potential claims and defenses. An experienced securities attorney will examine your facts, and perhaps the underlying securities themselves, to insure that all potential claims and defenses are examined.

Case handling. Make sure that the attorney you retain is the attorney who will be trying your case. Ask about status reports, telephone or email updates, and billing procedures.

Costs. Ask about the costs, filing fees, and the attorney's policy on disbursements. Disbursement costs can vary greatly, and should be only the actual cost, without markups. Does the attorney charge for Lexis or Westlaw database access? Ask, as those charges can be over $100 per hour alone. Get an estimate as to the cost of an expert witness. Some attorneys use their expert witness from the first day of the case, and have him at the hearings every day. Since you are paying the attorney, and the expert witness, make sure you are not paying twice. Discuss all filing fees, hearing session fees, mediation fees, and travel costs with your lawyer before you retain him and make sure you understand what you are expected to pay.


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