It’s funny. You never think about needing a lawyer until you really need a lawyer. Then, most people don’t really know how to find a good one. By a “good” lawyer, I mean an ethical, responsible, prudent one who will give you the time and work that your case needs to be resolved, or to surmount your legal problem. I’m going to give you my best tips on how to find the right lawyer for you and your case.
Lawyers are not one size fits all. Some areas of the law, such as bankruptcy law, criminal defense, family law, and estate law are highly specialized. You don’t want a divorce lawyer doing your bankruptcy, or a Big Law litigator to handle your one-person Chapter 7.
- Ask your lawyer. Most of us are happy to provide professional referrals to attorneys in other specialties, and if we don’t know someone, we know someone who does.
- Ask a friend or colleague. Has someone you know been in a similar situation? Ask them about their attorney. For instance, if someone has been having trouble dealing with their student loans, but seems to have it resolved, ask them how and who helped them.
- Check specialty associations. There are as many specialty groups as there are specialties, some by state, some by specialty, some by gender or ethnic group. You can also check the State Bar Association.
- Check independent legal review sites. Sites like Avvo.com, Superlawyers.com, and Martindale.comprovide reviews by clients or peer groups.
- There’s always Yelp and Facebook. When people want a review with range and striking power, these are two of the sites they turn to. You can even find a good sandwich shop near the lawyer’s office while you’re there.
Next, when you interview a lawyer, you need to know what questions to ask. Bring all your paperwork pertaining to your case for the attorney to review.
- Ask about their record in handling cases like yours, and if they are credentialed in their specialty.
- Will the attorney handle your case personally, or will someone else in the office handle it? Is that person an attorney or a paralegal?
- How often will you be updated on the progress of the case and is there an approximate amount of time that it may take? How often can you expect to be updated?
- Will you be billed for telephone calls and email correspondence, and who is your contact person?
- How are the attorney’s fees calculated. If hourly, are they prorated? Is there a flat fee, and what does it cover? What expenses are your responsibility?
- How often will you be billed? Will you be given copies of the documents pertaining to your case?
Often, you’re going to be picking a lawyer under stressful circumstances. As hard as it is, try to remain calm, take notes, and make your decision as logically as possible. Good luck, and we all hope that you get a good result.