Legal Representation - How
to Find a Lawyer and Evaluating Your Lawyer
HOW TO FIND A LAWYER, AND HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A GREAT ONE?
These days, the media is filled with stories of sleazy, incompetent
lawyers. Everyone seems to know a good lawyer joke. Quick... What
is the difference between a dead skunk on the road and a dead lawyer
in the road? Answer: The skunk has skid marks in front of it!
Before you make the crucial choice on which lawyer is right for
you, be sure you schedule a meeting with him or her in person.
Make sure she specializes in the specific area of law that fits
your legal problem. After all, you wouldn't go see a dermatologist
for a broken arm, would you?
Ask the lawyer about her background - years of experience, law
school alma mater, commitment to pro bono work (giving back to
the community), involvement in the local bar association, and public
awards or recognition she's received.
Next, explain your case. Does the lawyer have concrete ideas on
how to help you? Is she optimistic about your chances? Also, be very careful
about a lawyer who guarantees a victory. The law can be very uncertain – its
nearly impossible to predict what a specific judge or
jury might do. Nevertheless, does she seem very knowledgeable and
competent in the specific area of law that pertains to you?
Insist that the lawyer thoroughly explains her fees. Do you receive
an itemized bill monthly? Will paralegals be working on your case
and, if so, will you receive a discount for their time? What is
her policy on payments? Does she accept payments by credit card?
How much will you pay for costs such as copies and faxes, and is
the lawyer charging a mark-up for these services? Does the lawyer
use the latest in computer and high-tech solutions to save you
time and money?
Check out the lawyer's credentials. Most states have a central
registry for lawyers. Be sure that her license is active and, if
possible, what his public disciplinary record is. Is she active
in any community organizations? Does he subscribe to the local
Better Business Bureau? Has she been published and, if so, in what?
The answers to these questions will give you great insight into
whether the lawyer is experienced and committed to excellent service.
Finally, you as the consumer of legal services, have the absolute right to
expect certain things from your lawyer...
- Prompt return of your phone calls;
- Detailed, written billings;
- Complete answers to your questions (the old cliché about “no
stupid questions” definitely pertains to any questions
you have about what’s going on with your case);
- Regular access to your lawyer, not just his support staff;
- Copies of all documents related to your case, as well
as prompt notification of all significant developments in your
- A thorough explanation of the risks of going to trial versus
the merits of settlement.
Overall, the legal profession is a noble one. It is important
to realize, however, that the lawyer you choose to hire may have
a huge impact on the rest of your life. You do have a choice. If
you feel uncomfortable with the first few you interview, keep going.
Be informed, be cautious, and be diligent. There ARE good lawyers
out there. You will find them if you are a conscientious consumer.
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