Should you find yourself in need of a lawyer, there are some things you need to keep in mind when choosing your representation. Remember, representation by an attorney is a service, albeit I highly specialized and important one, and, like any other service, it would behoove you to do ample research before you choose.
Your specific needs
Before you begin looking for a lawyer, isolate out your specific needs. Different attorneys have specific areas of expertise, and knowing exactly what your situation is will streamline your search and help you discern the best fit for you. Perhaps you’ve been in a pedestrian, bicycle, or car accident, and you need expert legal advice. Maybe you’re in the middle of a civil dispute, such as a divorce or child custody battle. Perhaps you’ve even been accused of a crime. Whatever your case, there is probably a lawyer who focuses on your needs.
Do your research
Don’t be afraid to be assertively discerning with whom you choose. Advertisements and the Yellow Pages can offer a starting point, although the best way to locate the right lawyer for you is through word-of-mouth and personal recommendations. Thoroughly research potential lawyers. Go to their websites, of course, for preliminary information, but also read Google reviews and ask acquaintances who might have used them. Additionally, locate your state’s lawyer disciplinary agency to ensure this lawyer is in good standing with the American Bar Association. (The ABA also offers a helpful database of lawyers.)
Is it a match?
Conduct interviews with potential attorneys, and ask detailed questions about cost, special skills, and experience. Do you feel you can tell your lawyer absolutely every detail? Pay close attention to your lawyer’s behavior and habits. Does he or she promptly return phone calls and answer emails, or does it take awhile? Does the rest of the staff seem happy to work at the agency? Is the office space well-organized, or is it a bit of a mess? Also, be wary of lawyers who promise victory: no lawyer should ever make a guarantee of a specific outcome.
Billing is a major part of hiring a legal service. Be sure the lawyer you are considering is specific about the tasks the agency is performing and how much they will cost. Don’t let the lawyer be vague about the billing. When you do get your bill, it should be highly specific and without surcharges, which are usually unethical. If you are on a tight budget, try to locate programs that offer free or inexpensive legal aid to those who may qualify. You can locate these services in the Yellow Pages under “legal clinics” or “legal aid,” and you can also do an online search. If you’ve been accused of a crime for which you could spend at least six months incarcerated, you have a right to a free lawyer, although this lawyer will be appointed by a judge or the government. In civil disputes, however, you do not have the right to a free lawyer, so it’s important to try to find someone within your budget or utilize a program that can help you out.