How to Choose a Lawyer
Do Research, Schedule an Appointment, Ask Questions
Choose The Right Lawyer
Choosing a lawyer is a major decision that many people make at some point in their lives. With legal matters ranging from divorces to custody disputes to traffic infractions to personal injury cases, intervention from an attorney can become an imperative if favorable legal outcomes are to be obtained. No matter if the legal situation is simple or highly complex, the expertise of a good lawyer can determine the difference between a winning and a losing case. This is why choosing the right lawyer is so important. The good news is that there are a few strategic steps that can be taken when deciding on a lawyer. Read on to learn more about how savvy customers can choose a lawyer today.
Find A Good Lawyer Near You
When deciding on a new lawyer it will be important to first understand the precise need for the lawyer. Considering the specialty of the lawyer is important in determining their fit for the client’s needs. Lawyers specialize in a number of areas such as employment law, family matters, civil litigation and criminal issues. When considering a lawyer, the client will need to have a good understanding of their particular circumstances and can then choose a lawyer accordingly. The next step will be conducting adequate research to narrow down the search. Research can be performed by doing the following:
Word of Mouth Referrals
Many lawyers receive referrals from previous clients so it is in their best interest to always present themselves in the best light possible. When searching for a new lawyer ask friends, family and colleagues for recommendations regarding lawyers they are familiar with or have used in the past. Loved ones can even tap into their networks to ask others they know for recommendations on an attorney. These word of mouth referrals are helpful because they provide first-hand accounts regarding how the lawyer works, what they did well or alternatively, what they did not do so well. A personal recommendation from a trusted loved one is valuable; their statements will provide insight into the lawyer’s processes, their personality and law firm in general.
Check with the Local Bar Association
The next place to check is with the local bar association. A state’s bar association will not only list the lawyer’s credentials, experience and expertise, but will also indicate whether or not they are in good standing with the bar. A good lawyer will have a solid reputation within the community and will have a blemish-free record with the bar association. Additionally, rates of various lawyers can be confirmed with the bar association as well. This will make it easy to narrow down potential lawyers based on the client’s unique budget.
Use Web Search
- A thorough internet search is also a great place to begin the search for a lawyer. For example if you are a business owner looking for a business law firm, you may search "business attorney near me", the web provides many online resources including the lawyer’s website, their social media pages and even reviews from other clients who have used the lawyer in the past. First, review the lawyer’s website for basic information about the lawyer and their law firm. For instance, learn how long they have been in business, their mission statement and the specific legal services they offer. Additionally, review the lawyer’s social media pages including LinkedIn and Facebook. These platforms could provide valuable insight into the lawyer’s core values. Lastly, take a look at online reviews on sites such as Yelp or the Yellow Pages. Consider both the positive and negative online reviews. Such reviews are helpful in that they are written by real clients who would like to share their unique experiences with the public.
Contact the Lawyer for an Initial Consultation
Once a list of potential lawyers has been created, begin comparison shopping by contacting each attorney to schedule an initial meeting. Most lawyers will agree to an initial, no-cost consultation. In this short meeting, the lawyer will be available to answer questions and concerns regarding what it is like to hire and work with them. Meeting the lawyer in person and touring their law firm will be helpful in determining if the lawyer is a good match and if a relationship can be forged with them for on-going legal assistance.
Ask the Lawyer Questions
- How long has the firm been in business and how many years of experience does the lawyer have?
- Where did the lawyer attend law school?
- Is the lawyer a member of any professional networks and do they have any other memberships and affiliations?
- Has the lawyer worked on similar cases and what were the outcomes?
- How many cases have been won that were similar to this case?
- How long will the case take?
- What are all of the possible outcomes of the case?
- What types of on-going contact will there be between the client and the lawyer as the case progresses?
- What are the lawyer’s rates, fee schedule and frequency of billing?
- It is important to understand who the client will be working with regularly so be sure to ask who will handle the legal legwork—will it be solely the attorney, a partner, a junior attorney or paralegals?
- Also, if another partner or junior associate will be used, is this person fresh out of law school or are they a more seasoned professional?
- Lastly, ask the lawyer for a list of references. The lawyer should willingly provide a list of previous clients who can attest to their capabilities.
During this meeting assess the lawyer’s willingness to provide as much information as possible. Be practical and observe their behaviors. Some people will choose a lawyer right away based upon this initial interaction, whereas others may take some additional time to weigh all of their options, including the information they have discovered online or with the bar association. Either way, much can be gleaned from a lawyer’s style and business approach based upon the free consultation. In short, ask as many questions as possible to determine how the lawyer conducts business.
Other Things to Consider
- Was the office location clean, neat and free of clutter? For instance, was the lawyer’s desk clear of files or did he or she seem disheveled or otherwise disorganized?
- Was everyone within the firm professional and cordial, treating the client with respect from the moment they walked in the door?
- Was the lawyer open, honest and willing to share as much information as possible? In other words, were they transparent?
- Did the lawyer provide the client with any written material to take home and read over including a printed fee schedule?
- Did the lawyer demonstrate their expertise by providing detailed information that the client did not know regarding their legal matter?
Also, consider the size of the firm. Typically smaller firms or individual lawyers will provide more personal attention than larger, national firms with multiple attorneys. On the other hand, larger firms may have access to additional resources or may be better suited to handle highly complex cases as they can rely upon all of the various legal expertise that comprises their practice.
These are just some of the ways in which the best legal representation can be chosen. It is okay to dig deep and conduct extensive research on a lawyer in order to achieve the best legal outcome. Take all of this information into account when narrowing down the search for the best lawyer.
Of equal importance are the obvious red flags that can exist when searching for a new lawyer. An unethical, inept, or otherwise unprofessional attorney can lead to many negative implications, including a lost case. Avoid such an attorney by taking a few additional precautions. Important red flags to watch out for: complaints made against the attorney that have been filed with the state or bar association; recent or constant negative reviews online; a lawyer that does not return calls or emails within a timely manner; after hiring the lawyer they do not keep the client abreast of any changes or important updates regarding the case; and lastly, they make unrealistic promises in an attempt to gain the client’s business. Above all else, rely on instincts when it comes to recognizing a bad lawyer. If there are obvious red flags take the necessary steps to find other representation immediately.
Fees & Affordability
Also, consider the fees associated with using the lawyer’s services. In choosing a good lawyer, there should be transparency and no hidden fees associated with their services. All fees and prices should be put in writing and the lawyer should take the time to explain the billing process—how often it will occur, how will it occur and the payment responsibilities of the client. Here are some of the most common ways lawyers set up their pay structures:
· Hourly. Hourly rates for lawyers will vary depending upon geographical location and specialty. Keep in mind that just because a law firm has a more expensive hourly rate than another firm does not necessarily mean their services will be top quality.
· Contingency fees. Contingency fees are popular payment solutions where no fee is due upfront to the lawyer. Instead, a percentage of the final settlement offer will be due to the lawyer once the case is settled.
· Retainers. As another popular payment option, retainers are paid in advance for future or on-going legal services. These advance payments are added to a retainer account, or a special trust account that the lawyer can bill as services are used.
· Flat rates. Flat rates are commonly used for legal services that have a clear beginning and ending. For instance, drafting legal correspondence such as a cease and desist letter or other ancillary services are often charged at flat rates.
Qualities of Good Lawyers
When choosing an attorney it is be important for both the client and the attorney to be upfront regarding their expectations for one another. It is crucial for the client and the lawyer to be on the same page regarding the legal services being offered. If either party does not seem to be in agreement regarding the relationship, then this may not be the best fit. Keep in mind that there are many qualities to consider when choosing the best lawyer near you. For instance, a reputable lawyer will be open and honest regarding their capabilities. Their background, education and expertise should match with the information the client found online while conducting initial research. Also, a good lawyer will provide solutions to legal problems in the most respectful and ethical manner. They will answer complex questions, provide knowledgeable insight and will be more than willing to assist the client with any additional concerns he or she may have.
Furthermore, a good lawyer will be approachable and should have a friendly, personable demeanor. They will be an avid listener who will be able to repeat their interpretation of the client’s questions and concerns, addressing them in a straightforward manner. Remember, finding a good lawyer is about establishing a relationship. The client must feel comfortable with the lawyer. If the client does not feel comfortable disclosing all facts and details regarding the case, then this may not be the best fit. When choosing an attorney it will be important for both the client and the attorney to be upfront regarding their expectations for one another. If either party does not seem to be in agreement regarding the relationship, then this may not be the best fit.
Many people require lawyers for their various legal matters. Make the most informed decision by following these simple steps in choosing a lawyer. Find and hire the best lawyer by following a few simple tips that make recognizing the best in legal talent a simple process. Wise customers should take the time to choose a lawyer by asking friends and family, conducting research, interviewing lawyers, visiting their firms and by looking for positive qualities in the lawyer.
Learn more about how to find a lawyer near you.