How to find an excellent lawyer when you need one

How to find an excellent lawyer when you need one by Daniel Lenghea

If your legal problem is complex or involves lots of money, you might not want to attempt to handle the entire matter without a lawyer. After all, lawyers do more than dispense legal information. They offer strategic advice and apply sophisticated technical skills to legal problems. Ideally, you’ll be able to find a lawyer who’s willing to serve as your legal “coach” to help you educate yourself to the maximum extent possible and to take over as your formal legal counsel only if necessary.

Locating a good lawyer who can efficiently help with your particular problem may not be easy. Don’t expect to locate a good lawyer by simply looking in the phone book or reading an advertisement. Keep reading this article and you may find how to find an excellent lawyer when you need one!

Personal Referrals 

A better approach is to talk to people in your community who have experienced the same problem you face — for example, if you have a claim of sexual harassment, talk to a women’s group. Ask them who their lawyers were and what they think of them. If you talk to half a dozen people who have had a similar legal problem, chances are you’ll come away with several good leads.

But don’t make a decision about a lawyer solely on the basis of someone else’s recommendation. Different people will have different responses to a lawyer’s style and personality; don’t make up your mind about hiring a lawyer until you’ve met the lawyer, discussed your case, and decided that you feel comfortable working with him or her.

Also, it may be hard to find lawyer through a personal referral with the expertise you need (for instance, if your friend had a great divorce lawyer, but you need incorporation advice, the referral may not do you much good).

 Business Referrals 

Businesses who provide services to key players in the legal area you are interested in may also be able to help you identify lawyers you should consider. For example, if you are interested in small business law, speak to your banker, accountant, insurance agent, and real estate broker. These people come into frequent contact with lawyers who represent business clients and are in a position to make informed judgments.

Lawyer Referral Services

Lawyer referral services are another source of information. There is a wide variation in the quality of lawyer referral services, however, even though they are required to be approved by the state bar association. Some lawyer referral services carefully screen attorneys and list only those attorneys with particular qualifications and a certain amount of past experience, while other services will list any attorney in good standing with the state bar who maintains liability insurance. Before you choose a lawyer referral service, ask what its qualifications are for including an attorney and how carefully lawyers are screened.

What you may not get from any lawyer referral service, however, is insight into the lawyer’s philosophy – for instance, whether the lawyer is willing to spend a few hours to be your legal coach or how aggressive the lawyer’s personality is.

Here are a few other sources you can turn to for possible candidates in your search and how to  find an excellent lawyer when you need one:

  • The director of your state or local chamber of commerce may be a good source of business lawyers.
  • The director of a nonprofit group interested in the subject matter that underlies your lawsuit is sure to know lawyers who work in that area. For example, if your dispute involves trying to stop a major new subdivision, it would make sense to consult an environmental group committed to fighting urban sprawl.
  • A law librarian can help identify authors in your state who have written books or articles on a particular subject – for example, construction law.
  • A women’s or men’s support group will probably have a list of well-regarded family and divorce lawyers.

Attorney Screening

Once you’ve narrowed the list down to several names, use the following checklist to screen them:

  • Look at biographical information, including whatever you can find on lawyer and law firm Web sites. Do they have expertise in the area of law you need?
  • Check the lawyer’s profile and client list. What kind of clients does the attorney represent?  If you can’t tell, call the lawyer’s office and find out
  • Another way to find out more information about the lawyer and the law firm is to look on they Web site and find out more about individual lawyers
  • Use search engines to find articles, news papers or other informational pieces the lawyer has written? Does the attorney participate in any online chats, blog or a discussion board?
  • Ask people in your area if they’ve heard of the attorneys and what they think about them
  • Check out the online archives of your local newspaper. Has there been any publicity about the lawyer or the cases that he or she has handled?
  • Do you have any needs to consider such as requiring an attorney who speaks a language other than English?

Finally, you’ll want to work with someone you like and trust so don’t discount the importance of personality and personal chemistry. In any case, I hope these tips help you choose a good attorney. The last thing you need is another excuse for bad lawyer jokes.