Legal Guide

5 Tips to Find a Dependable and Determined Lawyer

If you suddenly find yourself in a position that requires you to hire a lawyer, the choices might seem overwhelming. In matters of the law, it is important not to make a hasty choice. Inside the courtroom, the one law you can count on is Murphy's Law: If anything can go wrong, it will. Taking the time to make your choice carefully will pay off in the long run.

Like any other profession, not all lawyers are created equal. Some are more driven, and others operate under questionable principles. Prices vary widely, and that old saying "You get what you pay for," might not apply. Unfortunately, none of this information will be posted on perfectly planned websites or glossy advertisements. There are ways to get to the truth. To find a dependable lawyer, you will likely have to seek outside advice.

Get a Referral

Talk to someone you trust. Discuss your situation with friends and family members. If they have acquired legal assistance in the past, your answer might be easy. A name and phone number will at least give you enough information to begin your research.

Business associates can be a good source of referrals as well. Your bank, insurance company, and local small businesses depend on lawyers regularly. Consider which business most closely relates to your situation and ask for suggestions. Your employer or co-workers might be able to offer assistance as well. In certain situations, your employer might even have programs to help you secure a lawyer.

Ask a lawyer. If you know an attorney that operates in a different field, they may still have connections to offer. Different law firms conduct business in close quarters all the time. A lawyer you already trust is likely to know your preferences.

Use Online Services

There are reputable services created to help you navigate this minefield. First, you need to narrow your choices by deciding which field your case falls in. For instance, if you were in an accident, you might need a personal injury lawyer. Or if you are facing IRS debt, you need a tax attorney. The right type of lawyer and your location will help you begin your search.

State Bar Associations are a good place to start. Your state bar association's webpage has resources to help you find a lawyer, answer questions, and seek financial assistance. FindLaw is an organization with a powerful search tool to help you find lawyers in your area that specialize in certain legal issues. The website also offers answers to questions, legal information and a place to purchase legal forms. NOLO also offers a directory that works by location and practice area.

Lawyer referral services are another option. You can find online options like Legal Services Link or Avvo. Just answer a few questions about your situation and your location. These services will connect you with lawyers qualified to work on your case. You may also find referral programs within your county or state bar association. These services may have a fee to get the results you need, but they are required to be approved by the state bar association.

Conduct Interviews

It is important to meet your potential lawyer face-to-face and ask questions. Many lawyers offer free consultations, and you should use them to ask all of the right questions. It is best for you to have a lawyer you feel comfortable with, and the first meeting will provide you the option to choose a lawyer you want to continue working with.

The following questions are a good place to start.

  • How long have you been practicing law?
  • What are the fees and costs, and when will I be expected to pay?
  • Are there ways to handle my case outside of court?
  • How will you keep me notified of changes in my case?
  • What is the most likely outcome of my case?

It is important for you to ask all of the questions that will make you feel comfortable going forward. An attorney who is reluctant to answer questions is someone to avoid. Bring a list of potential questions to your meeting and ask to schedule a follow-up call.

Learn Some History

There are ways to look into your potential lawyer's past. If you are narrowing your list or think you have already found the attorney you hope to hire, this is an important step. If a lawyer has broken the rules in the past, you can likely find that information in the Directory of Lawyer Disciplinary Agencies. Make sure you get all the facts before you sign the dotted line.

Seek Help You Can't Afford

Lawyers are expensive. If you know you're unable to pay for one, it doesn't mean you cannot get help. Hourly rates for private attorneys are often over $100. That rate doesn't include court costs or other legal fees. There are ways to search for free or reduced cost legal assistance.

  • Search for pro-bono lawyers. "Pro-bono" means for the public good. Many lawyers donate a certain number of pro-bono hours each year. The State Bar Association offers a list of pro-bono services for each state.
  • Search for a Legal Aid Clinic in your state. Legal Aid Clinics offer financial support through the government.
  • Check law schools in your state. Law students work with clients while still in school. These hours are required volunteer hours or hours necessary for class credit. Students are closely supervised by faculty or a practicing attorney.

You shouldn't feel lost when searching for an advocate as important as an attorney. When you are already faced with a difficult situation, finding a place to start may be overwhelming. There are services designed to make this process easier. Don't hesitate to use them to be sure you find the right lawyer for you.

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