Finding a good Lawyer may be the most important step you can take towards winning your case, and does not have to be a difficult task. If you need a lawyer and want to find a good one, make it easy, and just follow the steps below.
1Determine what type of attorney you need. Some legal situations call for a general practice attorney who handles many different types of cases, and others require someone who specializes in a certain area of the law. Areas of the law in which an attorney may specialize include:
- Family. Family law attorneys handle matters such as separation, divorce, pre-nuptial agreements, adoption, guardianship, child custody, and support.
- Elder. Attorneys specializing in elder law deal with issues like estate planning, qualifying for Medicaid, probating an estate, and obtaining guardianship of an elderly parent or grandparent.
- Criminal. If you have been charged with a crime, may be charged with a crime, or have questions about whether a specific act is legal, an attorney who specializes in criminal law may be the best choice for you.
- Personal Injury. Those who have been injured may wish to choose a personal injury attorney. Personal injury attorneys handle cases involving medical malpractice, dog bites, car accidents, and any injury to a person that may be the fault of another.
- Bankruptcy. Bankruptcy attorneys specialize in bankruptcy law, and may be the best choice of an attorney for those who need help getting out of debt.
- Disability. Many attorneys handle mainly Social Security and/or veteran’s disability claims. If you are disabled and need any attorney to help you get your Social Security or veterans benefit, you may want to consider a disability specialist.
2Collect the website addresses of local attorneys. Check the yellow pages under ‘attorneys’ for ads with website addresses listed on them, use your favorite search engine to run a search for local attorneys, and check yellowpages.com listings for attorneys in your area. Obtain at least 5 attorney website addresses. You may not want to eliminate an attorney as a choice simply because he or she does not have a website, however the lack of a website means you may not be able to gather as much information about the attorney as you wish.
3Review the attorneys’ websites. You may be able to remove one or two from your list after doing this. Some things to look for include:
- Professionalism. Most attorneys do not design and set up their websites themselves and may not even write the content for it directly. However, a good sign that an attorney may be a good one, is how much money he or she makes, and those making better money, usually have more professional websites.
- Information about the attorney or law firm. Nearly all attorney or law firm websites will have an About Me or About Us page or section. Read the information provided there for the attorneys credentials. Of course all lawyers will belong to the state Bar Association, but they did not all attend the same schools, have the same degrees, or come from the same background. Read about each one and get a feel for what kind of person they may be.
- Client list or client reviews. Attorneys who represent fortune 500 companies may be good at what they do, but for most situations, you do not need an attorney that costs $1,000 an hour. Check each of the attorneys’ sites for a list of local businesses he or she represents, as well as client reviews or testimonials.
- Awards and Clubs. There are a few awards and clubs that an attorney may mention on his or her site. These may include an AV Rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory or membership in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
- Information about the area of law in which you are interested. What information is provided about the areas of law the attorney practices? Does he or she sound like an expert in the field?
4Make some appointments. Make an appointment with any attorneys remaining on your list. Attorneys are aware of the fact that clients shop around sometimes first, and many offer free consultations to help you do just that. Call and schedule an appointment with each of the attorneys whose website passed the scrutinizing you have done so far.
5Prepare a list of questions for the attorneys. Before meeting with any of the attorneys, prepare a list of 5 questions that you will ask. Some things to think about when preparing your list include:
- The length of time it may take to answer each question. Because an initial consultation only lasts for 15 minutes to an hour, you want to be sure to have time to ask all of your questions. Therefore, consider how long it may take to answer each question, and leave out any that might take more than approximately 3-5 minutes. Remember, this is not the time to get answers to all your questions about your case. Instead, your goal should be to get enough information that you can choose the best attorney for you.
- Whether the question can be answered without conducting research. Many questions that are specific to your case will require a little research and investigation, and are not appropriate to ask during the attorney selection process.
- Whether the answer will help you determine whether the attorney is good at his or her job. While asking an attorney to describe the process required to accomplish your legal goals may help you familiarize yourself with the area of law you are dealing with, it is not likely to help you in making a decision about which attorney to hire, as the answers will all be the same. Asking each attorney about his or her experience and expertise in cases similar to yours might provide you with more fruitful information.
6Take notes. Bring a notepad and a pen and do not be afraid to take notes! You are going to want to remember as much as you can about attorney you speak with, so that you can make a good decision about which one to hire, so you need to make sure you remember what each one says and what your thoughts about him or her were while you were talking.
7Narrow your list down to the top two. Review each of the attorneys’ answers to your questions and evaluate him or her each based on their staff, the answers given during your meeting with them, and your impressions at that time (as written in your meeting notes). Choose the two attorneys you like best and eliminate the rest from your list.
8Check online reviews. See what current and former clients say about the two attorneys remaining on your list. While a few bad reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, many bad reviews where former clients all complain about the same thing may be something to consider. Reputable websites for attorney reviews include:
Avvo offers a searchable directory of attorneys including client reviews.
Findlaw provides a Lawyer directory on its site, featuring detailed attorney profiles as well as client reviews.
Lawyers.com offers a searchable database of attorneys containing both Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review RatingsTM and Client Review Ratings.
Yahoo Local provides local attorney information including client reviews.
9Talk to friends and family. Ask friends and family members about the attorneys remaining on your list. Even those who have not hired either of the attorneys may know one or both of them and be able to provide you with a character reference.
When meeting with attorneys in order to choose the one best for you, pay careful attention to how his or her staff behaves. Are they professional and polite? Do they appear busy and engaged in their work, or spend their time chatting with co-workers? Lawyers often delegate a certain amount of work to their staff, so you want to choose an attorney with a good one!