Follow these steps to find a good lawyer to help you with your legal issue.
If your legal issue is complex or involves a lot of money, you may not want to resolve the matter without a lawyer. After all, lawyers provide more than just legal advice. They provide strategic advice and apply sophisticated technical skills to legal issues. Ideally, you want to find a competent and intelligent attorney to guide you through the complicated court process.
How to find the right attorney
It is not always easy to find a good lawyer who can efficiently help you with your specific problem. Don't expect to find a good lawyer by simply reading an ad or searching online for a lawyer in your area. These sources do not contain enough information to help you make an informed judgment.
Fortunately, you have other options. Here are some helpful strategies.
A better approach is to talk to people in your community who have had the same problem as you; For example, if you have a complaint about sexual harassment, talk to a women's group. Ask who their attorneys were and what they think of them. If you speak to half a dozen people who have had a similar legal issue, you'll likely get a lot of good leads.
But don't choose a lawyer based solely on someone else's recommendation. Different people respond differently to a lawyer's style and personality. Make the decision to hire an attorney after meeting with them, discussing your case and deciding that you are comfortable working together.
It can also be difficult to find a lawyer with the necessary experience through a personal reference. For example, if your friend has a great divorce lawyer, but you need advice on starting one, the referral won't be very helpful. However, don't give up right away. Consider calling the divorce attorney, explaining that they are highly recommended to you, and asking if the office is using a specific business attorney. You can find the perfect fit.
Many websites, including Nolo.com, offer a way to connect with local attorneys based on your location and the nature of your legal case. They answer a few questions about your case and provide your contact information. Then a lawyer specializing in the area you need will contact you directly.Speak to a local attorney.
Nolo Lawyers Directory
Nolo offers an exclusiveAttorney Directorywhich provides a comprehensive profile for each attorney with information to help you select the right attorney. The profiles tell you about the attorney's experience, education, fees and, perhaps most importantly, the general philosophy for the practice of law. Nolo confirmed that all attorneys listed have a valid license and are in good standing with their bar association.
Law firms that serve the major players in your practice area can also help you find attorneys to consider. For example, if you need small business legal representation, talk to your accountant, insurance agent, or real estate agent. These professionals regularly make informed judgments about business lawyers because they come into frequent contact with them.
Mediation services provided by lawyers
Lawyer recruitment services are another source of information. However, there is a wide variation in the quality of lawyers' placement services, although they must be approved by the State Bar Association. Some lawyer recruitment services carefully select lawyers and only list lawyers with certain qualifications and some experience. Instead, other services list any attorney in good standing with the state bar association who maintains liability insurance. Before deciding on a lawyer recruitment service, inquire about the requirements for hiring a lawyer and the selection process.
However, what you may not get from a solicitor recruitment service is an insight into the solicitor's philosophy. For example, you don't know the lawyer's communication and process style.
Here are some other resources to turn to in your search for a prospective candidate attorney:
- ola- Avvo, Nolo's partner, provides information on almost every lawyer in the country. You'll find customer ratings, bar data, disciplinary records, peer recommendations, and more.
- The director of the local or state chamber of commerce can be a good resource for business lawyers.
- The director of a nonprofit group who is interested in the problem at the root of your case is likely to know of attorneys who work in this area. For example, if your dispute is about stopping development in a new neighborhood, it would make sense to consult with an environmental group dedicated to fighting the expansion.
- A support group for women or men will likely have a list of reputable divorce and family lawyers.
consider an expert
Keep in mind that a "general practitioner" who practices many areas of law may not know enough about each area of interest to be effective. For example, of the nearly one million attorneys in the United States today, probably fewer than 50,000 have enough training and experience in small business law to truly help a budding entrepreneur.
It may be worth working with a lawyer who already has expertise in the field, such asdiscrimination in the workplace, zoning laws, software design issues, or restaurant licensing issues. This way you can take advantage of the fact that the lawyer is already on the learning curve. A specialist may charge a little more, but it's often money well spent.
Interview potential attorneys
Once you know the names of several good prospects, the next step is to speak to each of them personally. If you describe your needs in advance, many lawyers are willing to meet with you for about half an hour free of charge so that you can assess them and make an informed decision.
Pay special attention to the personal chemistry between you and your attorney. No matter how experienced and recommended an attorney is, you may never achieve the ideal attorney-client relationship if you feel uncomfortable meeting that person for the first or second time.
Trust your instincts and find a lawyer whose personality suits you. Also look for experience, personal connections and accessibility.
communication and speed
You want a lawyer who is committed to your work and completes all assignments on time. Ask any potential attorney how to contact them and how long it will take for you to return your communications.
Don't skip this step, even if the attorney is easy to talk to and seems friendly. Busy lawyers often have systems in place to streamline their workflows and will appreciate you following them.
Unfortunately, the complaint logs of all legal organizations show that many lawyers are poor communicators, but to be fair, some clients' expectations are too high. While getting a call back within 24 hours is ideal, there is usually no need to worry if you have to wait several days before calling or making an appointment with your lawyer. Most attorneys have to juggle office hours with busy court dates, and your patience is appreciated.
However, anything longer than a few days is usually not justified. At the very least, the office should get in touch with you and explain the delay. Lawyers know that nothing is more frustrating for a client than weeks or even months without anything happening that could jeopardize the case. If your calls are not being answered, before you find yourself in this situation, consider hiring a new attorney.
For more tips on choosing and working with a lawyer, see the eBookThe Trial Survival Guide: A Client's Companion to Litigationvon Joseph Matthews (Nolo).
Before you meet with an attorney, you may want to learn some common (and maybe even not-so-common) legal terms.Simple Dictionary of Laws in English by Nolois available asfree iPhone app(compatible with iPod touch).