No one wants to find themselves in a situation where they need legal assistance. However, there are many occasions in life where it may be necessary to find a great lawyer.
Whether you’re on the side of the prosecution or the defense, having a great lawyer can directly impact your results. Here are some practical tips for hiring a great lawyer in 2020.
Ask for Recommendations and Reviews
The first step in finding the right lawyer is to ask friends or family members for a referral. Some people struggle with taking this first step because it is difficult to share personal information with loved ones, especially when it is regarding private information about your life.
It’s also worth looking at recommendations and reviews online, using sites like Google, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau. Remember to take online reviews with a grain of salt, especially if they’re anonymous. Think critically about the reviews you are reading, whether they are positive or negative.
Some businesses falsely generate positive reviews to enhance their ratings online. Conversely, many people who didn’t get the results they wanted will blame the lawyer, regardless of the situation, which can impact even the greatest lawyer’s reputation.
Look for Specific Experience
Once you’ve found a few options, look for proven experience specific to your needs. Many attorneys take a broad approach to practicing law. However, the more nuanced and focused a lawyer becomes on specific issues, the more successful they tend to be.
For example, a car accident lawyer could cover a variety of incidents. But a lawyer who focuses explicitly on DUI cases will have more time to focus on the subtleties of this type of situation. Click here for an example of the kind of expertise you should expect with an attorney who specializes in DUI cases.
Keep in mind that a legal practice may offer everything from family lawyers to real estate lawyers to criminal defense lawyers. Look beyond what the practice itself advertises and assess the individuals and their fields of expertise.
Look at Certifications and Qualifications
The next step in finding a great lawyer is to look at the certifications and qualifications that back up their experience. Consider this exercise to be a background check, verifying the claims they have made.
Reach out to the local disciplinary board and confirm that the lawyer you’re considering is in good standing. Read up on their background to see where they completed their education and if they have any extra certifications to support their practice.
It’s also worth conducting a Google search to see if the lawyer you’re considering was involved in any notable cases and how they contribute to the community outside their work. For example, they might offer pro bono services to people in need or contribute to educational material for their alma mater.
Schedule a Consultation
Once you’ve created a shortlist of potential attorneys, schedule a consultation with each one. To prepare, you should write down any questions you have and gather all the details of your case. A well-organized file regarding your situation will make your consultation more efficient. If you tend to get emotional about the situation, don’t hesitate to bring a support person to fill in any gaps.
Some law firms will allow for free consultations, while others require a fee. Free consultations are ideal when seeking legal advice. However, if there will be a fee associated with your visit, ask up front what it will cost and what payment methods are accepted.
Consider Cost and Payment Structure
Unfortunately, choosing a lawyer often comes down to cost and budget for some people. It’s important to ask what the expected costs will be during a consultation. Know that a lawyer can’t give you a firm number as unpredictable situations can arise, even in standard cases. However, they should be able to give you a reasonable estimate.
It’s also important to ask about the payment structure. Depending on the type of case, some attorneys work on a commission, while others work on a retainer. If they work on a retainer or payment plan, ask about the payment frequency and whether they require payment up front, or on a scheduled payment plan.
Assess the Entire Firm
While you may be working with just one attorney, it’s also important to assess the rest of the firm. Ask about the legal team and who will potentially be working on your case, as many lawyers work with a team to improve efficiency. Be clear about who will be present if you’re going to trial and who your point of contact will be.
Look at the size of the firm. There are pros and cons to both large firms and smaller firms. Smaller firms often have limited resources, but offer more personal one-on-one interaction. Larger firms may have more resources, but can lack the personal interaction some people appreciate during a case.
During your consultation, scan your surroundings and the atmosphere of the office. Consider the overall employee morale, and if the place looks clean and well-kept. These subtle indicators can speak volumes about the firm as a whole.
Choose Someone Realistic
While promises and guarantees can be comforting, they can sometimes end in disappointment. A skilled attorney takes a realistic approach and outlines the risks and rewards involved with your case specifically. They know that even the most clear-cut cases can end with surprising judgments, and that there are always many variables to consider in each different case.
Work with a lawyer who is optimistic about your case, without being too idealistic.
Assess How You Feel
In the end, your intuition should play a role in your final decision. If you felt heard and cared for during your consultation, that matters. If you felt like the attorney you are considering spoke over you, or gave a standard speech without taking the details of your specific case into account, it may not be a good fit. Your intuition will play a large part in your final decision about who will represent you.
Consider Your Options
Time is of the essence for many people when trying to find an attorney. However, it’s worth taking a step back and comparing the options before making a final decision. Even in fast-paced situations, take a few days to consider which attorney is right for you, after weighing all of the pros and cons of each.