Find A Lawyer Guide
Any time that you are faced with a legal matter, it is serious.
You need to find a lawyer that is competent, experienced and affordable. However, oftentimes, navigating the world of lawyers and courtrooms is confusing and frightening.
But, it need not be.
Like any other important decision, if you do your homework and make a careful selection, conducting an attorney search can be a low stress event.
Read on to learn how to find and attorney that will meet your needs.
Find An Attorney With Experience Handling Your Legal Matter
Depending on the seriousness of the legal matter, you should take some time to narrow your choices to attorneys that have some (or a lot) of experience in the area of law that underlies your legal problem.
Although your state’s bar association will not make a recommendation concerning a particular lawyer, you can search the state’s website to find a lawyer that handle your legal matter.
Out of the fifty states, twenty-three states have some sort of board specialization whereby the state bar association certifies an attorney as a specialist in a certain area of the law.
It is worth noting, however, that absence of board certification does not mean that an attorney is not an expert, it just means that he or she has not taken the time to jump through the hoops to become “board certified.”
So, in your attorney search, board certification is a factor, but not the only factor.
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Do I Even Need To Find A Lawyer?
Not every legal matter requires a lawyer. For instance, you can get really great software to generate professional contracts, wills and powers of attorney. Most of these use a question and answer format to generate a customized legal document.
In addition, many counties and cities have public law libraries. You can find form books on those libraries that provide examples of contracts, wills, powers of attorney and even revocable living trusts. Some of the form books provide a very good explanation of the law underlying the creation of these documents.
Sometimes, however, you need to find an attorney to handle more complex legal matters. You need to find a good attorney anytime a matter is likely to be contested or potentially involves a large sum of money.
Read below for a detailed discussion of how to find the right lawyer for your complex legal matter.
Personal Referrals: The Recommended Way To Find Lawyers
Once you have found a group of lawyers and narrowed your attorney search, the referral of a trusted friend or associate is usually a reliable way to further narrow your choices.
For instance, if you know someone that has been through a personal injury compensation claim, then certainly ask whether they were satisfied with their legal representation. In doing so, do not necessarily focus on the amount of money won or lost (settlement agreements prohibit disclosure of those amounts). Sometimes, people exaggerate the amounts that were recovered in their case.
Instead, focus on other factors such as client contact, speed of resolving the case, personal contact with the lawyer and so forth. All experiences, both good and bad are vital forming an informed decision about a particular personal injury lawyer.
Find An Attorney Using Online Referrals And Research
With the invention of the Internet, you might be tempted to believe that you can conduct your lawyer search by simply typing “find lawyer” or “find attorney” in the search engine. Sorry, no such luck.
However, the internet can be used to assist in your attorney search or to research a potential attorney after you have narrowed your choices.
Online Referral Services. Online referral services are usually subscription based. For a fee, they will place the attorney (along with a list of his qualifications) into their online database. When you use one of these services to find an attorney, you are actually searching their database for an attorney in your area that has paid to be included in the database.
State Bar Website. As mentioned above, state bar association websites can be useful to find a lawyer who is board certified. However, no state bar association is going to recommend a specific attorney in your area to handle your legal matter. They are primarily a regulatory agency charged with the job of preventing legal malpractice.
Google. One useful tip for using the internet to find lawyers is to Google a potential lawyer or law firm to see what comes up. If the law firm has a website, you can visit it and become familiar with the firm, its approach to handling legal matters and clients. You will also find news results involving the attorney and law firm detailing major victories as well as defeat.
Once You Find A Lawyer, It Is Important To Interview Your Attorney
It is important to remember that you are hiring an attorney to work for you. He is your employee and you have a right to interview him to determine if the two of you will be a good fit for each other. So, do not hesitate to ask pointed questions during your first office visit.
What Is His Experience? You will want to know the nature and extent of your attorney’s experience handling legal matters similar to yours. If he is unfamiliar with the area of the law that underlies your legal matter, can he adequately educate himself (at his own expense) or does he need to recommend another attorney or firm that handles your type of legal matter on a regular basis.
Who Will Handle Your Case? If you hire this attorney, you want to determine who will handle your case. Who will contact you to update you on the status of the case? Will discovery, or other preliminary matters be handled by the attorney in charge, an associate or a paralegal. If you have questions regarding your case, will you be able to talk to the attorney in charge? It is very important that you lay the ground rules early regarding the manner in which your legal matter will be handled. Be candid and do not be afraid to ask questions.
How Will He Maintain Contact With You? You will need to determine your attorney’s philosophy as to maintaining client contact. Some attorneys will update you every month by letter, even if they have nothing significant to report. On the other hand, some attorneys are notorious for failing to maintain client contact. In fact, most grievances filed against attorneys are for failing to keep a client abreast of developments in his or her case. So, it is important to establish up front how and to what extent your attorney intends to keep you informed.
Find An Attorney That You Can Afford
Typically, an attorney will expect payment in one of three ways. You will pay a flat fee, an hourly rate or a contingency fee.
Flat Fee. Where you have a small, uncomplicated legal matter, find an attorney that is willing to charge a flat fee for their services. Ask if photocopying, typing, and other out-of-pocket expenses are covered by this flat fee. Often the total bill is the flat fee plus these out-of-pocket expenses.
Contingency Fee. In a contingency fee arrangement, a lawyer agrees to represent you and to get paid only if you win, then takes his or her fee as a percentage of what you are awarded. Contingency fee cases usually involve personal injury attorneys, wrongful death lawyers, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, malpractice, and other cases in which there are likely to be substantial recoveries. If your case was taken on a contingency fee, you will not have to pay, up front, for the expenses associated with litigating the case. The law firm will recoup the expenses from any settlement or verdict obtained when you win the case.
Hourly Fee. In this arrangement, the attorney will charge you for each hour (or portion of an hour) that he or she works on your case. Some attorneys charge different hourly rates depending on whether the matter can be handled in the office or in court. If your attorney is less experienced in the matter, he should, likewise, charge a lower hourly rate. A higher hourly rate should include the services of secretaries, messengers, paralegals, and law clerks if they will be working on your case. If their services are billed separately, they should certainly be billed at a lower rate. Costs and out-of-pocket expenses are billed in addition to the hourly rate.
Get The Fee Arrangement In Writing. Regardless of the type of fee arrangement, you should not hesitate to ask for a detailed written fee contract. If you find an attorney with a good reputation, you will probably not even have to ask. He or she will already have a standard fee contract for each type of fee arrangement. Read it carefully and ask the attorney to help you understand any unfamiliar terms.
If You Need To Find An Attorney, Do Your Research First
When you have an important legal matter, you need to take the time to find a lawyer that is going to reliably and affordably meet your needs. This requires you to do research and ask questions. Finding a lawyer can be stressful and confusing if you have not laid the groundwork for success.
So, do your research before hiring an attorney and assist them in honestly evaluating the merits of your legal claim. This will minimize wasted time, money and effort to you and your family.
Here Is A Great Video On How To Find A Lawyer
Finding a lawyer is a serious matter, but it need not be complicated. Focus on trying to find a lawyer with experience handling your type of claim. Here is a short video that restates the important concepts that we covered in this capsule.
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