You may or may not be familiar with this famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and angle of contingency, and qualifies all his qualifications, but who throws himself on your part so heartily that he can get you out of a scrape.” This statement underscores the importance of lawyers and the valuable service they provide to society.
Whether you like lawyers or not, there may arise a situation when you need the services of one. Of course, you may be aware that you can always represent yourself in court, but chances are you are setting yourself up for failure. It’s better to let the experts do their job while you focus on the more important things in your life.
No one wishes to have legal issues, but when the need for a lawyer arises, finding someone to represent you can be a daunting task. Many people don’t even know how to begin as they become overwhelmed by the situation they suddenly find themselves in.
Hiring a lawyer is an important task when there is a need for one. While legal issues tend to be overwhelming and stressful, you have to do as much homework, at least, as you would do when making a major life decision, say buying a house or a car. The choice of a lawyer can affect the outcome of your legal issues, so you shouldn’t spare the effort to hire a lawyer who’s the best fit for you and your case.
The internet and people closest to you are the best places to start when looking for a lawyer,” says a Florida slip and fall lawyer at SteinLaw Injury Lawyers.
Below, you’ll find simple and actionable tips on how to navigate the search process for a lawyer. Here they are:
Reach Out to Your Friends, Family, Neighbors, and Colleagues
Not everyone has a lawyer on speed dial, and if you fall in this category, one of the first things you’ll have to do when you need a lawyer is to gather recommendations. A good start, as mentioned above, is to reach out to the people closest to you- family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
Someone in your social circle might have had personal experiences with lawyers or know someone who has. So, there’s a good chance you’ll get more than one name. Trusted advisors like your financial advisor, accountant, mentor, therapist, real estate agent, etc, can also provide good recommendations.
It’s worth mentioning that there are different types of lawyers – personal injury lawyers, tax lawyers, business lawyers, bankruptcy lawyers, estate planning lawyers, and so on. So, it’s important to hire a lawyer familiar with your legal issues.
If your contacts are recommending lawyers specialized in a different field, don’t worry. You can always use those lawyers as valuable resources for getting the type of lawyer you need. Contact them, tell them how you got to know about them, and ask them if they can recommend a lawyer that’s suitable for your cases. Most times, they’ll be happy to refer you to trusted colleagues.
The Internet Is Your Friend
Serious question here: what would we do without the internet? Another great place to search for a lawyer is the internet, if used properly. Search engines like Google are great resources to find lawyers in your area. Enter specific keywords related to your legal issue and location (e.g., “personal injury lawyer in New York City”).
LinkedIn is another great resource for finding lawyers. Specific keywords like personal injury or criminal defense can help filter the results. Pay attention to the location of the lawyer, as you should ideally work with a lawyer in your city or at least close to your city. Usually, you’ll find a link to a lawyer’s or firm’s website on their LinkedIn profiles. These sites often contain practice areas and contact information. You can learn more about a lawyer’s background and expertise from their firm’s website.
Reputable lawyer directories like Martindale allow you to search for lawyers by expertise and location. Many state bar associations have websites where you can find directories of licensed attorneys in your state. These directories often provide information about lawyers’ credentials and disciplinary history.
As you can see, the internet is a great resource to find lawyers, especially if you aren’t getting good recommendations from your social circle or want to keep your legal matters private.
Set Up a Consultation
When you have a shortlist of two to three lawyers, you should set up a consultation with them before hiring one. Consultations allow those seeking legal help to discuss their situation with a lawyer to understand their positions.
It’s important to prepare a list of questions you might have about your case before the consultations. Naturally, you’ll want to know how familiar a lawyer is with your specific legal problems – how many similar cases they’ve handled and the outcome of those cases. You’ll also want to know expected outcomes, how they will keep you informed of any updates or progress, and how fast they respond to calls and emails.
Fees and payment arrangements should be discussed during consultations. Typically, lawyers charge in one of the following three ways:
- Hourly rate based on the number of hours they work on a case. The hourly rate can vary significantly, and the actual amount depends on the experience and location of the lawyer as well as the complexity of the legal matter.
- A flat fee, which is used for specific legal tasks or services, such as drafting a will, handling a real estate closing, etc.
- Contingency fees, which are commonly used in personal injury and some other civil cases. In this arrangement, the lawyer is paid a percentage of the client’s monetary recovery (e.g., a settlement or court award). If the case is not successful, the lawyer does not receive a fee, but the client may still be responsible for other costs.
Many lawyers offer free initial consultations that last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. However, some lawyers may charge a flat rate or an hourly rate for the time spent during the consultation.
Verify Credentials and Trust Your Instincts
You can easily verify if a lawyer is licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction through your state’s Bar Association website. Each state in the United States has its bar association responsible for licensing lawyers.
On the state bar association’s website, look for a “Lawyer Search” or “Attorney Search” tool. This tool allows you to search for lawyers by name. Enter the lawyer’s full name or their bar number if you have it.
When you find the lawyer’s name in the search results, click on their profile. This profile should provide information about their licensure status, including whether they are currently in good standing, any disciplinary history, and their contact information.
Finally, trust your instincts when hiring a lawyer. Consider your rapport with the lawyer after meeting them, and choose someone you feel comfortable working with, as effective communication and trust are vital.