Regardless of your legal issue, choosing a lawyer to represent your interests is one of the most critical decisions you face. As such, it’s essential to do your homework so you can make an informed choice that advances your objectives.
In addition to online searches, many people get referrals from friends or family members who had a good experience with an attorney for their own legal matters. You can also get references from these attorneys if their expertise is not in the appropriate practice area for your needs.
Conduct candidate interviews
Once you have several referrals, carefully research each candidate, and narrow down the list to a handful of old fashioned interviews. Questions you may wish to ask them or their staff can include:
- What experience do you and your firm have related to my issue?
- How long have you practiced, and what is your track record?
- How much of your caseload is devoted to handling similar cases?
- How will you communicate regarding developments?
- What are your fees, and how are they structured?
- Are there additional fees for items, such as postage, filing fees, etc.?
- Do you have a representation agreement or a written fee agreement?
- How often will I be billed?
- Do you and your firm carry malpractice insurance, and how much?
Assess the candidates’ answers
Once you’ve interviewed all the candidates, it can still be difficult to make a decision. A good way to get a clearer picture is by asking yourself the following questions:
- Does their background and experience meet my needs?
- Were they courteous and prompt with their answers?
- Did I feel comfortable with them personally?
- Am I comfortable with what they charge?
- Am I okay with the arrangement for how those fees are paid?
Bear in mind that just because an attorney charges higher fees doesn’t necessarily mean they are more qualified than others to handle your case. On the other hand, lawyers who charge “bargain” fees may indicate inexperience or incompetence or signal other issues you’ll want to avoid.
Before deciding, it’s appropriate to ask a lawyer for references and check their peer review ratings through an independent rating service. You may also wish to check whether they have been selected as a Super Lawyer or given a high peer-review rating by Martindale-Hubbell. Lastly, before you hire an attorney, always check your state’s disciplinary agency for lawyers to confirm that they are members in good standing with the bar association.