Whether you need to draft a legal document, a will or a trust, require advice on legal transaction when buying or selling real estate or getting a divorce, it is important to select the best attorney possible.
1. Identify Your Legal Problem and Use a Specialist
When looking for the right attorney you must first consider the problem or issue that is facing you. The law has many different specialties and sub-specialties. To choose the one that is best suited to represent you, you should first decide what kind of attorney is required to address and resolve your problem:
• Family Law Attorney / Divorce Attorney – separation, divorce, pre-nuptial agreements, adoption, guardianship, child custody and support.
• Personal Injury Attorney / Car Accident Attorney – cases involving medical malpractice, dog bites, car accidents and any injury to a person that may be the fault of another.
• Criminal Law Attorney – if your case involves a crime or potentially illegal activity (ex. in case of driving under influence you will need DUI Attorney)
• Tax Attorney – for handling complex tax issues such as estate planning, international business, or going to tax court
• Trusts and Estate Attorney – estate planning, qualifying for Medicaid, probating an estate, and obtaining guardianship of an elderly parent or grandparent.
• Employment Attorney – handle cases where either an employee sues a business for wrongful termination or a where a business is sued.
• Small Business or Corporate Attorney – when you need a help in establishing a business.
2. Find an Attorney Whose Services You Can Afford
The right attorney for you is the one who is affordable. Usually their services are charged by the hour. You should always ask what other charges you can expect from the attorney for handling your case, such as travel charges, expert fees, copying, postage, etc. It would be a very unpleasant experience to find out that the attorney is charging you per letter, per hearing, or whatever else it may be when the final bill is delivered. You should always try to obtain an estimate of what the case will cost to litigate in writing. When agreed, try to secure a contract that will spell out the maximum costs associated with trying your case, preferably in writing of course. This should prevent any unwanted surprises.
Lawyers often offer a free of charge initial consultation. If you have any concerns about the cost, it would be good to take advantage of this.
3. Use an Attorney Familiar with Your Region
Choosing a local or national specialist depends on the nature of the case that is in question. For example, workers’ compensation or real estate matters are usually handled locally whereas, matters of federal law, such as labor law are handled best by national specialists.
An attorney from your region will have better understanding of local laws and procedures and know personalities of the local judicial or administrative authorities. Engaging with a local attorney would allow for face-to-face meetings which are generally better than telephone conferences or e-mail communication.
4. Search for Qualified Attorney Online
The internet is a powerful tool that can help in narrowing down the pool of potential qualified attorneys. You could search for attorneys in your area, and filter by specialty. You can check if there are any comments available online about the performance of the attorneys you select. Once you have chosen a few potential attorneys you can use Internet to start booking your appointments.
5. Prepare Questions
Once your appointments are booked, you will need to prepare some questions, that would help you to decide which one you want to choose. It is worth to note that it is not necessary to choose an attorney or sign any contracts at this point. All you are doing is interviewing in order to see if their qualifications match your expectations.
Questions you should consider asking during the first meeting, include:
• 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)?
Do not forget to ask the attorney about your case’s chance of success or failure. If the lawyer sounds overly optimistic and does not mention any of the risks or the costs associated with the case, it may be worth to look elsewhere for a more honest approach. Every case includes some risk.
You may also ask whether you will be given any periodic updates on the status of the case and who will be the main point of contact? Having an experienced attorney who is communicative and responds to your inquiries and concerns even if only in writing or by phone is of paramount importance.
6. Consider the Size of the Firm You’d Be Dealing With
There are benefits of hiring an attorney from a small firm. In most cases, you receive personalized, prompt attention. Additionally, the lawyer representing you will likely have plenty of time to dedicate to your case. Large firms, where attorneys must often juggle numerous commitments and have many responsibilities may be less attentive to your needs.
Nevertheless, large law firms have their advantages too. Their size often implies greater resources in terms of money and manpower which in some cases is indispensable, especially when researching and crafting a unique strategy. Additionally, big firms can influence the judgments. Many judges and opposing attorneys would tremble when challenged by a large and reputable firm.