How to Choose the Right Lawyer

How to Choose the Right Lawyer

by Belle Wong, J.D., October 2017

Finding the right lawyer for your needs may seem like an intimidating process, but, as with any other consumer transaction, doing your research is key.

At one point or another, many people find themselves in a situation where they're in need of the services of a good lawyer. Whether it's handling a real estate transaction, setting up a business, or dealing with a family law issue, there are a vast number of situations where the experience and expertise of a good lawyer will be necessary.

So, You Need to Find a Lawyer

If you're looking for a lawyer to help you deal with a legal issue that has emerged in your life, you may be wondering how to find an attorney and how to know if you're choosing the right lawyer for your particular legal needs.

It's important to remember that the lawyer is offering a service and that you, as a potential consumer of that service, can and should evaluate the services offered in much the same way you'd evaluate any other type of service you're looking to purchase.

How to Choose a Lawyer

The first step in the process of choosing the right lawyer, then, is the research phase. Ideally, you want to start with the names of several lawyers, and, as with the purchase of most other services, personal referrals are often the best place to start. Begin compiling your list by asking friends, neighbors, and business associates for recommendations.

State bar associations are also good resources for finding lawyers who practice in the field in which you require assistance. Online resources can be another good source, and many such resources have the added benefit of offering consumer reviews, so you can see how other people have rated their interactions with a particular attorney.

How Do You Know If Your Attorney Is Good?

Once you've compiled a list of potential attorneys, you can begin the evaluation process. Most lawyers offer a free initial consultation, and, as an informed consumer, you should take full advantage of these.

Be prepared with a written list of questions, and make notes during the consultation, so you can later compare the lawyers on your list. Important questions to ask during this initial consultation include the following:

  • Area(s) of expertise. You want to make sure that the lawyer you hire has experience in the area of law in which you require assistance. There are many practice areas in the legal field, and most lawyers tend to handle cases in specific practice areas.
  • Potential costs. Legal advice can become quite costly, so it's important that you know how much your lawyer will charge you. During the initial consultation, a lawyer should be able to give you a ballpark estimate, based on the facts of your case.
  • The legal team. Some lawyers work by themselves, while others have paralegals on their team or outsource some of the legal work to other lawyers. You want to make sure you know who will be handling your file, as this can have an impact on both the quality of the service you receive and the cost.
  • Communication. How does the lawyer communicate with his or her clients? If you have a question, how should you be getting in touch with them? What is their response time like? While every lawyer will most likely be handling several cases at a time, your case is a priority for you, and you need to make sure the lawyer you hire recognizes this and communicates with you in a timely manner.

Finally, in addition to getting answers to questions like these, you also want to make sure you and the attorney you retain are a good fit when it comes to personality. Ask yourself, do I feel at ease with this lawyer? Will I feel comfortable asking him or her questions and bringing up issues that concern me?

When you've selected the attorney you think will be a good fit, it's a good idea to call the organization in your state that handles attorney disciplinary matters to make sure the lawyer you've chosen has not been the subject of any disciplinary actions. In most states, this organization will be the state bar association, but it can vary, depending on your state.

Once you've completed this assessment process, you should have the answers you need to help you choose the right lawyer for your particular situation.