Finding a good attorney may be the most important step you can take toward winning a legal case and it doesn’t have to be a difficult task. You will, however, need to take your time with the search. Focus your efforts on finding a lawyer that has dealt with your specific legal issue in the past and that you get along with personally. Taking the time to find the right lawyer will be worth it, as they are more likely to help you win your case.
Choosing an Attorney
Make an appointment with any attorneys remaining on your list. Contact each attorney and set up a consultation. Most attorneys do consultation appointments for free. However, some may charge a small fee for a consultation. Make certain that you know whether you will be charged, and don’t make an appointment with an attorney who isn’t forthcoming about these details.
- Most attorneys offer consultations for free. Start your search with these before you consult with an attorney who charges for initial consultations.
- If you do not live in the same state as the attorney, you can schedule a phone consultation instead of an in-person meeting. However, because you will usually want your attorney to appear with you in court, you should try to find a local attorney to represent you.
Write out questions about the lawyer’s practice. You can generally find out the basic information about the attorney online, such as how long s/he has been practicing, where s/he went to law school, etc. For your in-person questions, ask about matters that are relevant to your specific case. The attorney should not have any problem answering any questions you may have, and should not sound hesitant or unsure. Areas to ask about include questions about the following:
- You should ask whether the attorney offers hourly pricing or flat fees? Flat fee pricing is very popular for many areas of practice, particularly things like family law.
- Delivery time for legal work.You should ask how quickly you can expect for the attorney to complete your legal project. Your attorney will likely not be able to give you an exact number, but s/he should be able to tell you how long previous, similar cases have taken and when you can likely expect a resolution.
- Success rate.You will probably want to ask what the attorney’s track record is with cases like yours. Attorneys cannot guarantee an outcome (they are ethically forbidden to do so) but you should have an idea of what results you can reasonably expect. You can also ask for references from prior clients. Be aware that the attorney must obtain permission from prior clients before s/he can give you their information, so you may not get references immediately.
- You should ask how quickly the attorney can start. You should also ask who your primary contact throughout the case will be. Will you hear mostly from an assistant or junior colleague? You should know who to contact with questions about your case.
- If the attorney has misconduct or reprimands on his or her record – which you can find out at your state’s bar association website – ask about them. In some cases, the infraction may be minor, such as failure to pay bar fees on time. You must decide whether the infraction is significant enough to disturb you.
Bring documents or information to the meeting. The lawyer may ask you to bring certain documents, but you should also bring any that you think are important to the case. Gather these documents ahead of time to be sure that you can locate them on the day of the appointment.
Attend your consultations. Meet with, or talk to, each of the lawyers you selected. Feel free to take notes while talking to each one, so that you can remember later what each attorney said and what your initial impressions were.
- Remember that you are interviewing the attorney for a job. Treat your meeting as such, a job interview. If you feel as though the attorney isn’t listening to you or isn’t answering your questions, pick a different attorney.
Choose an attorney that you feel comfortable with. Aside from experience and strong knowledge of the law, choose an attorney who you think that you would get along with and like working with.
- If the attorney makes you uncomfortable in any way, you should choose someone different to represent you.
- Also consider how well the attorney answered your questions. If s/he hesitated, used too much “legalese,” or didn’t attend to your needs, pick someone else.
- If more than one attorney has the qualifications you are looking for, you should choose the one that you feel the most comfortable with.