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How do I find a GOOD lawyer?
Notice how I've added and capitalized the word "good" right above? Finding a lawyer is easy. They are all over the place.
You find lawyers by the hundreds in the yellow pages. You see them on billboards. Just drive down Main Street and there are as many law offices as there are fast food joints. Heck! These days lawyers are even writing blogs, and they have web domains like www.patdickson.com!
Like I said, finding a lawyer is easy. Finding a good lawyer is a bit more difficult, but the good news is there are a lot of good ones out there. You just have to separate the wheat from the chaff.
With this said, I'm going to list a few things I do when I am looking for a good lawyer. Yes, I am a lawyer, but I often need them too. These days I limit my practice to in-house clients and transactions, so I often go looking for litigators or specialists when my clients need them.
Finding a good lawyer checklist:
#1. Call Around: In my experience, the best way to find a good lawyer is by talking to people who have had first-hand experience with them. Pick up the phone and dial.
If you are looking for a divorce attorney, call someone you know who has recently been divorced. If you have a contract issue, talk to someone that's recently been to court over a business dispute.
Ask lots of questions. What were your results? Was your lawyer prompt, courteous, and responsive? Was he fair with money? Did he surprise you with lots of hidden costs? Did the judge like him? How well did he work with opposing lawyers? Speaking of opposing lawyers, don't forget to ask about them too. They might be the better choices!
Get at least three solid references.
#2. Conduct Lawyer Interviews: Schedule appointments with the lawyers you've found. Go talk to them face-to-face. Discuss your case, the expected results, and how much your lawyer wants to charge you. Will a retainer be required?
What is each lawyer like? Is he disheveled or lacking focus? Does he pay attention to you, respond politely, and seem to be personable? How much experience doe he have? Does he have time for you and is he patient?
The list goes on and on. Just remember, you are interviewing your lawyer for a job. He is not interviewing you. He will work for you. Not the other way around. Treat him just like you would any prospective employee. You are going to potentially be his boss. Will you be able to work with him, and will he be able to do a good job? Does he have the right skills?
Another way to look at your lawyer it to see yourself as his customer. You are! You have a right to ask him lots of questions. You have to make sure you are confident the lawyer you pick will be able to provide the customer-focused, quality service you expect. You are not doing your lawyer a favor. You are paying him to work for you. You deserve to be satisfied with his performance.
#3. Investigate Your Lawyer: Once you've interviewed and selected a lawyer, do a little investigation before you hire him. This means don't sign a fee agreement with him into you've done a little homework. Let's assume he is a solo practitioner, and has asked you for a $10,000 retainer.
- Look your lawyer up with the state bar. You never know if he is a real lawyer. Also, this search will likely show you if your lawyer has had any bar complaints against him.
- Ask your lawyer for a copy of his credit report. If he wants $10,000 of your money, he needs to prove he is credit worthy. If he says no, then you might not want to use him. Alternatively, his refusal may make it easier to argue he has to provide service before you pay him. You have no proof he is not a credit risk.
- Ask for a copy of his malpractice insurance policy. Will you be able to go after his carrier if he commits malpractice?
- Look your lawyer up with the Better Business Bureau, search for his name in an Internet browser, and check local consumer review sites.
- Look your lawyer up in the local court docket. Look not only for the clients he has represented, but for the cases in which he has been a party. What if he has three DUIs or has had custody of his children taken away by the state? What if he has recently been sued by three different credit card companies and his landlord?
- If you are daring, find the cases in the court docket your attorney has lost. Call the clients he represented in those cases. Call the opposing attorneys. You never know what you might find!
Good luck finding a good lawyer!
I hope this article has been helpful. And I'm not being facetious when I send you off with "good luck!" There are a lot of attorneys out there, and there are many good ones. Just remember, you are the customer and when you hire a lawyer, he is working for you. You are the boss. You are the customer!
You have a right to scrutinize your lawyer. You have a right to look him up with the state bar, to ask for his credit report if he wants money up front, and to call his previous clients and ask them for references.
It is your money and your legal matter. You are in control.