Where Do I Find the Right Attorney?
Hiring an attorney is often the first worry when something goes wrong and there are legal implications. Finding an attorney is actually quite easy, but for those who haven’t been there before, finding the right one can be tricky.
Despite there being approximately 1,320,850 employable lawyers in the US alone, in March this year it was reported that even the US President, Donald Trump, struggled to find a lawyer. Even the largest firms passed on the opportunity to represent one the world’s most powerful leaders, mostly due to him being an allegedly “difficult client.”
So where do you start? The first step to finding a lawyer isn’t deciding where to find the lawyer, but what lawyer you’re after and what lawyer you can afford. So first, decide which area of expertise you want your lawyer to specialise in; is your problem related to family relations, intellectual property, personal injury, employment, bankruptcy, business, property etc.? These are just some examples, but there are many specialisations and niches lawyers cover, and it’s best to find a lawyer that is best qualified to deal with your problem, rather than a lawyer that is a jack of all trades. This is also why it’s likely not best to hire a friend or a family member who is a lawyer, as their area of expertise may not cover your issue to the full extent necessary to win the case.
It’s best to find a lawyer that is best qualified to deal with your problem, rather than a lawyer that is a jack of all trades.
The second decision you have to make, is what you can afford, this will immediately narrow down your search to either low budget lawyers, no win no fee lawyers, or high-end retainer fee lawyers. The price of a lawyer doesn’t always mean a better a lawyer, however according to Amy Rees Anderson, founder and Managing Partner of REES Capital: “…nothing will be more expensive than hiring cheap lawyers, and nothing will be more painful than hiring the wrong ones.”
If you are on a budget and need low cost legal aid, there are some options you can root for. You can try looking to legal aid societies, you can visit a law school, you can contact your county or state bar association, you can check out your government website’s options, or you can take matters through small claims court, which most governments have made pretty easy on their local government websites. There is even an EU version. Your last option is of course representing yourself in court, which isn’t always allowed, but for small matters is seldom disregarded.
If legal aid isn’t your cup of tea and you’re very serious about your legal situation, then hiring the right lawyer regardless of cost should be a priority.
The best way to find the right lawyer is by word of mouth or referral. Ask your friends or colleagues who have been in similar situations who their lawyer was, what team they hired or where they sought out their lawyer. By getting a referral you’ll often get unbiased feedback and comments on a lawyer which your friend or family member has no vested interest in, financial or otherwise. This will hopefully give you a mixed box of suggestions based on reviews you can trust.
This may also be the quickest and more reliable way of finding a lawyer. By asking a friend or family member, you’ll have some context of the work they’ve done, be able to obtain their contact details fast and easy, and have a starting point when it comes to contacting the lawyer.
Your local high street
Some people like to deal with their lawyers regularly and in person. If this is you, you may want to find a lawyer that is super local to you, so heading into town, googling local lawyers, or looking one up in your local yellow pages are all viable options. Finding a lawyer that is readily available at a moments notice can eliminate some of the hassle of dealing with a lawyer, such as emailing, phone calls and scanning/printing documents to sign.
Your local lawyer may not be the best, but perhaps the lack of complexity can compensate, and you don’t want to be travelling into the city every time you need to speak to them in person. Remember you still have the option to thoroughly research local lawyers, by looking up online reviews or asking local businesses about them.
The world wide web is probably your biggest resource for finding the right lawyer, albeit the more intricate and long-winded option. You’ll easily be able to narrow down the area of expertise, the locality and the price, though this will take time and savviness. For those that manage to see through Google Ads and flashy websites, finding the right lawyer via the internet will be the optimal course of action.
The world wide web is probably your biggest resource for finding the right lawyer, albeit the more intricate and long-winded option.
On the other hand, there are some reputable sites as well as government sites, that offer directories of lawyers, often with reviews and comments from clients or peers. Some of these may be ‘paid for’ listings, so be careful. In fact, Ken Callander, the Managing Principal at Value Strategies, recommends ignoring almost all attorney rankings and lists that are publicly published: “Many of these lists are based on peer ranking — which translates into, ‘I’ll recommend you for a list if you recommend me for this other list.’”
The Balance Careers suggests conducting candidate interviews, by which you will be able to allow each candidate lawyer to sell themselves for your custom. Important things to check with them would be: Do they hold the necessary qualifications to represent you in a local, state or county court? What experience do they have with issues similar to yours? How long have they been practicing and are they going to win you the case? What are the lawyer’s fees, conditions and billing structure? Does the lawyer have the necessary insurances?
Besides making sure that your lawyer is your friend, or at least has some degree of client care, and isn’t just in it for the money and success, ensure that your lawyer is a good communicator. When it comes to large firms and teams, this is hardly ever an issue, but when it comes to private practices and individuals, communicating updates and difficulties can often be a problem. This is mostly because they are caught up in servicing legal work for several clients at a time. Communication between you and your lawyer is crucial in any legal situation, whether they’re filing a trademark for you, or helping you purchase a property; make sure your lawyer responds to your emails, calls you when necessary and does their best to ensure you’re aware of what’s going on.
Callander says: “If you send a note to an attorney saying you’re interested in working with them and you don’t hear back the same day, I would hesitate hiring them.”
“If you send a note to an attorney saying you’re interested in working with them and you don’t hear back the same day, I would hesitate hiring them.”
If you are looking for a lawyer because you are wise and are aware that, as Entrepreneur columnist Cliff Ennico puts it, “the fee a lawyer will charge to keep you out of trouble is only a small fraction of the fee a lawyer will charge to get you out of trouble once it’s happened,” perhaps a general counsel or a multi-faceted team of lawyers are the priority options for you. Your future self will also be very grateful when a legal issue does crop up. If hiring a firm, and therefore a general legal team to cover your back, as a rule of thumb, the bigger the firm, the wider coverage you’ll in terms of legal expertise, as a larger firm will have a larger number of specialised lawyers at your disposal. However, in this case the overheads and therefore fees will also be bigger.
Finally, you can look up some of the world’s most reputable lawyers in Lawyer Monthly’s yearly Legal Awards, a publication which celebrates and awards the top legal professionals in their respective sectors. Click here for the latest edition.
Sources: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/03/28/politics/donald-trump-lawyer/index.html https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/05/09/the-lawyer-bubble-pops-not-moment-too-soon/qAYzQ823qpfi4GQl2OiPZM/story.html https://studentscholarships.org/professions/475/employed/lawyers.php#sthash.2Txaixz6.dpbs https://www.leanlaw.co/lawyers-united-states/ https://www.usa.gov/legal-aid http://www.statebarassociations.org/ https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-choose-a-lawyer-2164685 https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/58326 https://firstround.com/review/Find-the-Best-Lawyer-for-Your-Startup-with-this-Off-the-Record-Advice/ https://www.wikihow.com/Find-a-Good-Attorney https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/03/26/how-to-find-legal-help-when-you-cant-afford-a-lawyer https://www.gov.uk/find-a-legal-adviser https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money https://www.justice.gov/usao