Hiring a good lawyer for a civil or criminal matter is a very important decision you have to make. Aside from the facts of the case, the outcome of your trial will be dependent on how well your lawyer can argue your points. You need a good one to guarantee the court understands your side of the story and comes to an agreeable ruling.
Here are the five steps you should take before hiring any lawyer. Go through these as we direct and you have the best chance of hiring someone who will win your case.
Ask friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations
The most powerful recommendation you can get is from someone you trust. Not only will you know the lawyer is good, but if you mention you came from a past client, you may receive preferred treatment over a non-affiliated client.
Tap into your network of family, friends, and coworkers for recommendations. Send out emails, post to Facebook, and ask in person if you happen to run into someone you know in your day to day. As long as you get word out, there’s a very good chance at least one of your friends knows a reliable lawyer.
And if someone recommends a lawyer but that lawyer can’t assist in your particular matter (relatively common), there’s still a very good chance he or she can recommend another reliable lawyer who can.
Check online reviews from lawyer-specific portals
When you can’t get a referral from someone you trust, your next best bet is looking at online reviews. However, for something as serious as law practices, most don’t use mainstream sites like Yelp – they use lawyer-specific review sites like the ones below.
- Avvo.com Avvo is the largest independent lawyer review site and each individual lawyer or practice will have the highest number of reviews on here. Make sure to take the time to read each review so you get a full scope of the positives and negatives.
- Lawyers.com is a bit more specialized in that it allows you to search for industry-specific lawyers by state and city. Go here if you know the type of lawyer you need for your problem and you want to get started right away.
- LawHelp. Legal aid can be expensive. LawHelp is a directory of free and low-cost lawyer and firms that help struggling clients with payment plans and/or reduced rates.
Consult a specialty group
There are two types of lawyers – those who handle general cases, and those who specialize in one particular field of law for more complicated cases, such as intellectual copyright law.
If you have a complex case that goes past the knowledge a general lawyer will have, you will have to get a referral to a specialist or find one yourself.
For example, an organization like the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys can help with elderly-specific law issues such as Medicaid. These areas of law are complex and require specialized knowledge that comes only with specialized study.
To find a specialty group for your particular issue, look online or consult a local law office. Although the local law office may charge you a consultation fee if they can’t handle your case, the recommendation you get on where to find a good lawyer for your case will be well worth the nominal consultation fee.
Visit the office and meet your lawyer
Looking online only goes so far. Once you get a list of lawyers you’re considering, sit down with each one to get a vibe for the person and how he or she conducts business.
If you’re pleased with the atmosphere and how you’re treated, that’s a good sign. If something is “off”, or the lawyer makes you feel uncomfortable, or something happens to dissuade you from the lawyer’s personality, find someone else. There are plenty of lawyers out there for whatever area of law you need representation for, even if you’re in a smaller city or town.