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.

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.