Whether you need a lawyer for your day-to-day business or just once in your entire lifetime, picking the right representation is critical. Many people go their entire lives without having to consider which lawyer or law firm they would go to for help if it was needed. In many cases, the utmost concern for people looking for an attorney is cost. Lawyers are expensive, and may people cannot fathom paying someone hundreds of dollars an hour for any service. This is where most people make a mistake in choosing their representation, especially those who need an attorney because they are in trouble.
It is undoubtedly a shock to find yourself in a position where you need a lawyer, whether it is a civil matter, such as being sued by a business partner or someone injured on your property, or a criminal one, such as a DUI, or illegal substance possession. On top of the shock of the situation is the sheer volume of attorneys that are available. Opening the phone book or doing an Internet search for a law firm will yield hundreds of responses in normal-sized towns, thousands in large cities.
In order to narrow your search, find a lawyer or law firm that specializes in the type of case you need them for. Your brother-in-law may be an attorney, and he may be very good at it, but if he specializes in tax law, and you have a criminal charge filed against you, go find someone else. Many lawyers will list multiple fields of specialties. This is often basic advertising. If an attorney says they specialize in something, call and ask how many cases in that field they were involved with in the past year. If you don’t receive a straight answer in a timely manner, move on to the next attorney.
Once you have a list of 5 or 10 firms or individual attorneys, find your closest friend who is a lawyer in the region, and ask them about the reputations of the people on your list. If you don’t have a friend who is an attorney, find a friend who highly trusts an attorney they have worked with, and go ask that attorney about your list. Even in the biggest of cities, the legal world is a small one, and if the attorney you ask for advice doesn’t know someone on your list, they will definitely know someone who knows them.
When you have narrowed your list further, meet with each of the remaining attorneys or law firms. Ask about their background in your specific field, any other important cases they are working on, and who else will be working on your case. Find out what they normally charge, and if they can work on a contingency basis. If their price is too high, don’t despair. Explain your budget upfront, and state that you will have to visit another attorney. If they can bring their pricing down, they will.