How can you select the right lawyer to meet your needs? Legal services are like any other product : the wise consumer performs thorough research before making the best choice. As soon as you secure several lawyer referrals with knowledge in the suitable practice area, you must carefully research each candidate ( for tips about how to find a good lawyer, see How you can Find a Lawyer ). Here are 5 steps to picking the best lawyer for your legal needs.
Conduct Candidate Interviews
One of the better methods to assess a lawyer’s legal ability is by interviewing the lawyer. The majority of attorneys provides an initial consultation ( generally an hour or less ) at no charge. A few crucial questions to ask during this meeting are:
Exactly what experience does the lawyer have in your type of legal matter?
How long has he already been in practice?
What exactly is his track record of success?
What percentage of his caseload is committed to handling your type of legal problem?
Does he have any unique skills or certifications?
Precisely what are his fees and how are they organized?
Does he carry malpractice insurance? If so, how much?
Who else would be working on your case and what are their rates?
Does he outsource any key legal tasks for functions?
What additional costs may be involved in addition to lawyer fees ( postage, filing fees, copy fees, etc.)?
How often will you be billed?
Can he provide recommendations from other clients?
Does he have a written fee agreement or representation agreement?
How can he inform you of developments in your case?
Remember that a higher fee does not necessarily equate with a far more qualified attorney. Also, a rock bottom fee may signal problems, inexperience or incompetence.
After meeting with the lawyer, you must ask yourself the following questions :
Is the lawyer’s expertise and background compatible with your legal needs?
Did he give prompt and courteous responses to your inquiries?
Is he someone with whom you might be comfortable working?
Are you confident he possesses the skills and experience to handle your case?
Have you been at ease with the fees and how they are organized?
Are you comfortable with the terms of the fee agreement and/or representation agreement?
Found on-line at Martindale.com and at your local public and law libraries, Martindale-Hubbell is a great resource for information about a law firm and its lawyers. This guide can often be used by lawyers themselves when picking legal talent in another jurisdiction. The directory contains basic practice profile data on virtually every lawyer in the US and Canada and detailed specialist biographies of leading lawyers and firms in 160 countries. It also consists of lawyer and law firm ratings based on peer reviews which may help when choosing between 2 equally qualified candidates.
Ask Other Attorneys
Lawyers know the skill and also reputation of other lawyers. Attorneys may be able to give information about a fellow lawyer that you may not find in a book or on the internet such as information about a lawyer’s ethics, competence level, demeanor, practice habits and reputation.
Conduct a Background Check
Before selecting any lawyer, get in touch with the lawyer disciplinary agency in your state to make sure the lawyer is in high-quality standing as a member of the bar. For an online listing of each state’s lawyer disciplinary agency, review this directory of lawyer disciplinary agencies. You should check references, particularly if you located the attorney through the web. You can also check a lawyer’s peer review ratings online. Peer review ratings provide an objective indicator of a lawyer’s ethical standards and professional ability, produced from evaluations of lawyers by other members of the bar and the judiciary in the United States and Canada.
Tour the Lawyer’s Law Office
It is possible to tell a lot about an attorney from his law office. Request a brief tour of his office, beyond the office or conference room in your home where you met with the lawyer.
Is the law office neat, orderly, efficient and well-run? What kind of support staff does the lawyer employ? Does staff appear friendly and helpful? Is the lawyer’s office local and easily accessible? Is a large portion of his office space unoccupied? Watch for red flags such as mass disarray, unhappy staff members, empty offices and un returned phone calls.
By taking these five steps, you can select a lawyer with the legal skills and personal qualities that will best serve your needs.