How to Hire an Attorney
We laugh at lawyer jokes, but when it comes time for legal representation the joie de vivre quickly comes to an end. Because when it comes down to it we want a capable attorney to represent our interests, a professional who knows how to present your case and will do his or her best to see that you are well represented.
We no longer have the Yellow Pages to help our fingers do the walking, but we can find legal representation through a number of sources. Don’t delay either — in emergency situations an attorney can step in immediately to protect your rights.
People That You Know
The first place to check for an attorney are the people you know. Friends, family, neighbors, business associates, your church members, people that you can contact to help you connect with a lawyer.
Know that lawyers specialize in different areas of law. A business attorney won’t represent you in a child custody case, but he or she can refer you to someone that does. Attorneys are excellent sources of referrals when you need to find the right representation to handle any legal matter.
Your State Bar Association
Every state has a bar association and your state’s association can help you locate lawyers across your state. They will help you identify which ones practice in what areas too, saving you plenty of time.
Keep in mind that simply because an attorney is listed by the bar association, that does not mean that their record is spotless or that they’ll do a good job. Your best bet here is to get some names and then do your homework by searching on the web for information about prospective lawyers.
On the Web
Besides using the web to help you learn more about an attorney, the Internet can help you find attorneys in your area. Perhaps the best way to accomplish this is to head to Google and put the following information in its search bar: Your town and the type of legal expertise you need. For instance, you might type: Chicago divorce lawyer.
Once you get the results, do not automatically choose the top choices. Begin to review the list of lawyers returned and read their information. You can also find lawyer rating services via Martindale.com, Lawyers.com, and findlaw.com.
Ask for References
Lawyers should happily offer up references, individuals that they’ve previously served. Of course, if there is family matter involved, obtaining references may be more difficult. Still, ask for at least three references.
Contact each reference to find out if that client was satisfied with their representation. They may not prefer to answer every question, then again they may volunteer more information than you had planned to receive. Carefully evaluate your references before making your decision.
You should be able to meet with an attorney face to face before hiring one. Most lawyers will provide a free consultation to answer your questions and review your case. If an attorney cannot represent you, ask for a referral. This is easier to do if you are dealing with a large law firm and not an individual practice.
Lastly, find out from your attorney how he or she expects payment. Some bill by the hour, others by the job, and you may be expected to pay in increments. Ask the attorney for an estimate of the number of hours needed to complete your case and obtain an estimate of the expenses you will have to cover. Some lawyers take payments on contingency — if they win your case, then they’ll take a flat rate. If they lose, you pay nothing.
When you are ready to hire an attorney, you will sign a letter of engagement. This is your legal contract, what binds both parties as long as you are satisfied with your lawyer’s services. If dissatisfied, you have the right to fire him and look elsewhere.
Hanna Reese is a professional blogger that provides advice for criminal defense and DUI situations. She writes for Peter J. Binning, Attorney at Law which is a top DUI and criminal law firm in Columbus OH.