How to Select a Lawyer
Initially, identify the type of legal problem you face and then find lawyers with experience and expertise in that field. Lawyers “specialize” in their practice, much like physicians. “Practice areas” generally fall within Business & Employment, Family & Individual, or Accident & Injury.
Business & Employment practices usually involve business formation, sale & purchase; taxation & financing; contracts & agreements; real estate & land use; government regulation & compliance; or labor & employment relations.
Family & Individual practices may handle wills, trusts & estate planning; divorce & custody; domestic partnerships & pre/post-nuptial agreements; real estate sale & purchase; contractor disputes; bankruptcy; insurance disputes; or criminal & municipal.
Accident & Injury lawyers represent clients for personal injury & accidents; mass tort & class actions; medical malpractice; or workers’ compensation & disability.
Once you have found some competent lawyers or firms in their practice areas, choose the one who makes you feel confident and comfortable. However skilled or experienced the lawyer, it does you no good if you are intimidated or uncomfortable asking questions or discussing your problems.
Try these steps to help facilitate your search:
1. Before researching the lawyers, research your own legal needs and decision-making style; consider your personal and business situations
2. Ask for referrals from people whose opinions you respect and have worked with attorneys, especially on the kinds of legal matters you are likely to encounter
3. Go online to search law firms and visit their websites to check their practice specialties, credentials, affiliations, articles, clients, results, and “personality”
4. Interview a few of your top prospects, preferably at their offices, so you can see their environment, experience their style, and meet some of their team
5. Ask each attorney for 2 or 3 client references with situations similar to yours.
You can decide to hire the lawyer at your first meeting or take time to think things over. In either case, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
• Are you confident this lawyer has the experience and skill to handle your case?
• Will you be comfortable working closely with this lawyer?
• Do you understand this lawyer’s explanation of what your case involves?
If your answer to one or more of these questions is “no”, then you should probably consult someone else. If all your answers are “yes”, then you may have found the right lawyer for you.
About the Author
Ira C. Miller, Esq. is a senior partner in the Princeton-based law firm of Pellettieri, Rabstein & Altman and an adjunct professor at the Rutgers University Institute of Labor & Management Relations. Call Ira Miller at 609-520-0900 or visit http://www.pralaw.com
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