Everyone needs a lawyer, whether they are the owner of a multi-national looking for an acquisition or a suburban couple going through an ugly separation. However, the issue is how do you find someone who will look out for you?
A simple Google search on lawyers gives you millions of results. But, not all lawyers are competent and trustworthy enough, and not all cases are the same. Plus, lawyers do not just offer legal information. They also provide advice to help their clients avoid “sticky” situations. Furthermore, some people prefer lawyers with an adversarial style, while others want someone who can persuade a judge and jury. So, how does it all work?
Here is what is not going to happen. You will not find a skillful lawyer through the phone book or a bus shelter ad. These sources do not have enough information to help you choose a legal professional. Therefore, you will have to make an effort to locate and shortlist a good lawyer. You might have to ask around or fire up your online searching skills to narrow down your choices. Following are a few tips to help you find the best legal representation for your case. First, you will have to shortlist your preferences.
- Think of the practical considerations: Like doctors, every lawyer has an area of expertise, such as criminal law, contract law, land law, and medical malpractice law. For example, if you’re looking to sue a doctor who injured your child during labor, look for birth injury law firms instead of a specialist in occupational injuries. Most states have programs that certify attorneys as specialists in their area of practice. You can look through these programs to identify and choose an expert. Working with an expert can help you avoid delays since they already know all the tricks of the trade. It can also significantly increase your chance of a favorable verdict.
- Go through the local referral service: Clients can find lawyers through a community referral service. Most of the lawyers offer help to specific groups, such as the elderly or disabled. The directory of your local bar association can help you sort through lawyers according to the area of law. However, some referral services recommend lawyers without considering their experience or expertise. So, go through the interactive directory of the ABA to shortlist candidates for your case.
- Avail prepaid legal services: Sometimes, labor unions, companies, or other groups offer legal service plans to people. You might be eligible for an extensive program covering legal consultations, representation in routine matters, and filing small claims. Other services include only legal advice and consultations. Ask about coverage options before you hire a lawyer who charges an exorbitant fee.
- Personal referrals: A good approach is to ask for a recommendation from people who struggled with a similar issue. You can ask your friends and family to help you get in touch with a good lawyer. However, do not decide before meeting the lawyer and discussing the case. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to legal representation. So, you should find out if you feel comfortable with the style and personality of the lawyer.
- Business referrals: Business associations can help you identify a good lawyer. For example, the Small Business Association can help owners of small businesses contact an excellent lawyer well-versed in business and tax law. Your banker or real estate agent may also know someone who can help you out.
Choosing the right one
You can shortlist candidates after going through the directories, referrals and asking for recommendations. Some helpful tips include:
- Ask the lawyer about their cases: Some lawyers are better at arbitration, while others are superstars in a trial. People hoping for an out-of-court settlement should look for someone who is an excellent negotiator. Comparatively, criminal cases need trial attorneys who can win the day in court with hardcore evidence and articulate arguments.
- Consider the size of the firm: Large law firms may have more resources for each case. Hence, they are the right choice for complex corporate takeovers with millions of documents. The firm can dedicate several lawyers, paralegals, and associates to the case. On the other hand, smaller firms offer personalized representation and support to clients.
- The fee matters: Lawyers’ fees can run in millions of dollars, so hire a lawyer you can afford. Ask the lawyers about their fee structure before you make any decision. You do not want to be blindsided by an enormous bill at the end of the lawsuit. Ask them about their billing method and fee structure to get an idea about the expenses. Some lawyers work on contingency, while others charge by the hour.
- Personality: You will have to keep in touch with your lawyer and consult them on everything. Therefore, you should feel comfortable and relaxed. Pay attention to the chemistry between you and the lawyer handling your case. A fruitful lawyer-client relationship requires trust, rapport, and accessibility. Avid hiring someone with whom you may have a personality clash as it may affect the progress of your case.
- Communication: People usually complain that lawyers are terrible communicators. Clients share
anecdotes of waiting several days before getting a phone call from their lawyer. Not only is this behavior irresponsible, but it also wastes time. Ask the law firm about how often they update their clients about cases. Doing so will give you a clear idea about their policy.
Choosing the right lawyer can seem overwhelming. However, hiring the wrong person can turn your life into a nightmare. Therefore, it is better to spend some effort looking for a compatible law firm. Clients should consider the individual characteristics of the lawyers and do their research before signing on the dotted line.