When you need legal representation, you want to choose the best lawyer for the job. With so many lawyers advertising on TV, the internet, and on billboards, it's hard to figure out which one is best qualified to serve you. By asking around, doing some research, preparing questions, and meeting with potential attorneys, you can find the best fit for your needs.
When I first started in the business I was completely green on whom to refer my clients to if they needed estate planning work. Not having any relationships with any attorneys, I relied on my colleagues for some good referrals. The attorney that most used was one that came with a hefty price tag, but he was considered “the man” for the job.
The first clients that I referred to this attorney walked away with quite a bad experience. While the cost was a bit higher compared to other attorneys, the clients would not have had an issue with except that they found several errors in the trust document. My client was a retired English teacher and she took the time to read the entire trust documents. And thank goodness she did because the errors that she found could have been costly.
I was fortunate that my clients didn't blame me for the mishap, but I couldn't help but feel responsible. At that point I vowed to myself that I wouldn't refer any clients to anyone that I didn't have a personal experience with.
Friend and Family Referrals
Traditionally, and still one of the best ways to find an qualified lawyer, is to ask for referrals from friends and family. Your friends and family will be able to give you a testimonial regarding the quality of service they have received from lawyers that they have worked with in the past. This is a starting point for narrowing down the field. Once you have a few names, you can contact those lawyers to see if they are able to handle your particular case or needs. If they can, you may set up an appointment to meet with them and further decide if they are a good match for you. If not, they might be able to refer you to a qualified lawyer who works in the area you need.
Online Searches for Qualified Attorney
The internet can be a very useful tool in narrowing down the pool of potential qualified lawyers. You can begin by searching for lawyers in your area, and by specialty. You can then search for references or negative feed back about the lawyers you select. Once you have chosen a few, as with referrals from family and friend, you can begin setting up appointments with potential lawyers.
Once you have set up appointments with a few lawyers, you will need to be prepared with some questions for them to help you select the best fit.
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- What is the cost of the initial consultation?
- What is the basic list of fees?
- Will they provide a written list of fees?
- How many people will be working on your case/services, and what are their fees?
Some questions to ask about each lawyer might include:
- Can you see their resume?
- Have they achieved any accomplishments or received awards?
- How many years experience do they have?
- What is their particular area of expertise?
Remember, it is not necessary to choose a lawyer or sign any contracts at this point. You are really just taking the time to interview several to see if their qualifications match your expectations.
Straight From the Source
Curious to see what an actual attorney would say regarding the situation, I went straight to an attorney that I trust. Adam Lawler of Adam B. Lawler Law Firm, LLC is an attorney that I trust so I thought I would pick his brain on what he thought about finding a qualified attorney. Here's what he had to say:
First, get a referral from a friend, colleague, lawyer or local bar association to find a lawyer in your geographical area that practices in the legal area you need. After you get that referral or recommendation, the best way to choose a qualified lawyer is through asking questions of the prospective lawyer.
It is imperative that you ask the lawyer many questions during the first meeting, including:
- Have you handled a matter like this before?
- What are the anticipated costs including the attorney’s fees?
- What is the anticipated time frame for completion of the item(s)?
You should expect to have these questions answered in such a way that you can decide how/if to proceed with your particular matter.
One must remember that lawyers give legal advice, they do not make ultimate decisions for you.
Listen to Your Gut
After you've interviewed several qualified lawyers, it's important to listen to your instincts. The questions you asked are very important, but so is your feel for the lawyer. You may be working with this person extensively and need to feel comfortable and confident with them. Think about their responsiveness to you in terms of setting up your initial meeting, the appointment time, their promptness and availability. Take into account their abilities and experience but also their willingness to work hard for you and make you feel like an important client too.