I wanted to take a break from my normal blogging on practice specific topics and provide advice for hiring any attorney.
My law firm, Legacy Law Center, has a reasonably focused set of practice areas: estate planning / probate / elder law and estate litigation. All of these areas have crossover and are, of course, intertwined. For instance, a person who passes away without an estate plan will likely pass his assets to family through a probate estate.
Many attorneys, however, practice in many different areas that are not related. Smaller firms may have a practice that is 25% criminal defense, 25% family law, 25% bankruptcy and 25% personal injury. Larger firms may have entire departments related to a specific practice area and have 8-10 (or even more) attorneys who practice almost exclusively in that specific area.
The best advice I can give when you need to hire an attorney is to first figure out what area of the law is involved. Is there a contract at the center of your legal issue? Was someone hurt? Are you having trouble paying your bills? Do a little research first as to what the problem is. Within 15 minutes or so, you should have a good idea. If someone was hurt at work, you are probably looking first for a worker’s compensation attorney. If they were hurt outside of work, you are probably in need of a personal injury lawyer.
Now that you know what the problem is, the next step is who can help you. Here is where I can offer the best advice. When you are researching lawyers to hire, look at their website, make sure they handle the type of case you have and ask around. Also, do they practice in the court where your case is? You won’t know unless you ask. And why is this is important? Well for example, in a criminal defense case, it’s very helpful to know the prosecutors well enough to have an idea how they will deal with your charge. Judges might have tendencies when it comes to sentencing or punishment. The more information the attorney can know in advance, the better.
Once you meet with the attorney, you need to understand that in many circumstances, the attorney cannot give you a definitive guess at a result. They can tell you the law, they can review your facts but it’s a tad unfair to have them make a prediction without knowing more about your case than what you brought in to review or your side of the story.
Ultimately, you should feel comfortable with your attorney and the advice they give you when you meet with them.
My last piece of advice is if a prior attorney that you liked cannot help you, ask them to refer you to someone. I commonly do this with clients and have an attorney or two to refer to in just about every practice area there is, except for maybe a couple.
If you follow these steps, you should find the process of finding your attorney a little easier and more effective.