No matter what type of attorney you’re looking for, from a medical malpractice lawyer to a divorce lawyer, it’s essential to take the time to choose the right one for the job. In the U.S. alone there are over 1.3 million practicing attorneys, with a wide range of experiences and success rates – if you hire a good one by following these three steps you’ll have much better odds of a successful outcome.
Create a List of Potential Names
Your first step to finding the right lawyer is to create a list of potential names by asking friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. for referrals. While you’ll want someone who specializes in the type of issue you’re dealing with, whether it’s a car accident, medical malpractice, divorce or something else, other lawyers know the reputation and skills of other lawyers so you may be able to get a quality referral from them.
If you come up empty, check with the American Bar Association which will be able to pinpoint some suitable lawyers who are licenced in your area. Internet searches can provide you with names as well but you’ll want to do some digging before setting up an appointment, which brings us to our next point.
Conduct Background Checks
Save yourself some time before going in for a consultation by conducting background checks for every name on your list. You’ll want to contact the disciplinary agency for lawyers in your state to confirm that they’re in good standing as a member of the bar. Every attorney is licensed by a state agency that can help you find out if that person has a law license and is permitted to practice there.
Search his or her name online, looking for reviews, comments, feedback, etc. regarding the attorney’s services as well. You can also check peer review ratings for attorneys online through sites like Martindale.com. These provide an objective indication of each lawyer’s professional abilities and ethical standards, generated from lawyer evaluations, as well as information from other members of the bar.
Once you’ve created a shortlist of attorneys who are qualified on paper, it’s time to set up consultations. The lawyer should be upfront about all fees so you’ll understand what you might be charged. If they’ve advertised a low flat fee, does that figure include court filing fees, printing documents related to your case, emails and phone calls to discuss the case, etc? If the attorney isn’t clear and honest about the fee structure, walk away. Ask questions about their experience as well – how many cases has he or she taken on that are similar to yours? What percentage of the practice is devoted to your kind of case?
Another important part of the equation is how comfortable you feel with this person. Does he or she have good communication skills that will allow you to develop rapport and an open relationship? It’s a must that you feel you can be honest and open about your case, sharing all pertinent details, or the lawyer won’t be able to fully assist and the odds of a positive outcome will decrease.
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