Most people do not have a clue how to find a good lawyer when they need one. In fact, statistics show that 68% of consumers spend two hours or fewer gathering information before selecting a lawyer.
1. Determine the type of lawyer you need.
In most states, a licensed attorney may practice in any field of law, but most concentrate on very specific areas. Most states also have a process of specialization for attorneys. "In days gone by, most lawyers were general practitioners, meaning that they handled cases in a wide variety of practice areas. As the number of lawyers grew, the law became more complicated, and our society spread out, it has become necessary for lawyers to concentrate their efforts," says Michelle May O’Neil, a board-certified Dallas divorce lawyer . There are almost as many different practice areas as there are lawyers. For example, a lawyer who practices admiralty law might not be the best attorney to assist a person needing a divorce. Or, a construction lawyer might not be best suited for a real estate dispute.
2. Utilize referral sources.
One of the best resources to find a lawyer that does the kind of law you need is through other lawyers. Everyone should know at least one lawyer they could call and ask for a referral. Even if the lawyer you know practices criminal law and you need someone to prepare a will, the criminal lawyer will be able to give you some referrals in the practice area you need. There are also referral lists maintained by most local and state bar associations. The downfall of using these services is that there is usually no screening on the qualifications of the particular lawyer with the individual need. It is then up to the consumer to inquire sufficiently into the lawyer’s experience compared to the need of the consumer.
3. Look online to research lawyers in the area you need.
The internet is an extremely beneficial source of locating a lawyer. Many websites maintain directories of lawyers nationwide. Most law firms these days maintain websites and usually you can find those through any search engine. Often lawyers are active in professional or community organizations which may be featured on a website. "My firm’s website www.oneilanderson.com is a key tool in educating clients on what distinguishes my family law firm from another firm in Dallas," says Dallas Divorce Lawyer Michelle May O’Neil. "I find that most potential new clients read all or part of an attorney’s website before meeting in person."
4. Meet in person with a couple of lawyers.
The initial interview with an attorney that you are considering hiring is extremely important. Take with you to the interview all of the documents and other information that relates to your problem. Also take with you the names and addresses of the important people that have something to do with your case. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer about his or her credentials. Ask how many cases similar to your’s that she has handled. Prepare a list of questions to ask when you get there – what is the law related to your case? What are the realistic outcomes? What is the lawyer’s philosophy for handling your case? Does she recommend an aggressive approach or one geared more toward settlement? Consider your comfort level with the attorney and the personal compatibility. Did you get a feeling of trust from the attorney? Did the attorney seem to know what she was talking about? Did the lawyer seem confident about your case? I never recommend that a person hire the first attorney they meet
5. Establish reasonable expectations.
Many people have never dealt with a lawyer before, so they don’t know what to expect. First and foremost, you should expect frank, honest advice. Your lawyer should point out for you the strong and weak points of your case and give you a realistic expectation of the potential outcomes. She should keep you informed and send you copies of documents pertaining to your case. If a lawyer gives you a guaranteed result, run the other way!!! Lawyers are prohibited from guaranteeing any particular outcome, so be very leery if this happens. Don’t expect your lawyer to act as a psychologist, financial advisor, tax planner, or to give any other advice outside of her expertise. If you need advice in other areas, consult a professional in that area.
This post originally appeared on Avvo.com: How To Find A Good Lawyer When You Need One. Look at my AVVO profile here.