How To Choose An Attorney - Looking Beyond the Advertisements

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At some point in your life you will probably need legal advice.
Whether it's to write a will or business contract, representation in a lawsuit or divorce, you will need to hire an attorney.
How do you choose one? Some people think, "I'll choose the one with the most ads.
" Basing your choice strictly on advertising is not a good idea because ads only show that the attorney has money for marketing.
Perhaps you ask for recommendations from people you know.
That is a better option, but still not complete.
The best way is three-fold: 1) Ask for referrals, 2) Determine your personal preferences, and 3) Interview attorneys.
Ask for Referrals Ask friends, family, and colleagues for referrals.
Tell them your circumstance as to why you need an attorney so they can refer you to a lawyer who practices in the appropriate legal field.
A family law attorney deals with divorce and child custody cases.
A personal injury attorney helps accident and other injury victims.
If you aren't sure what type of attorney you need, you can contact your local bar association.
In addition to this information, they may also have a list of attorneys who charge on a sliding scale.
It is best to gather names of 5-7 attorneys.
Personal Preferences While you're gathering your pool of attorneys, determine your personal preferences.
The easiest way to do this is ask yourself some questions.
Get out a sheet of paper and answer the following: *Do I feel more comfortable with a man or a woman? I have met tough women attorneys and gentle male attorneys.
There is no hard and fast rule for gender.
*Do I prefer a younger or older attorney? Some people prefer someone just out of law school; others prefer a seasoned veteran.
*How far am I willing to travel for appointments? Take travel time and cost of gas into account, especially if you have a lawsuit.
Your case may drag on for years.
Will you still be willing to drive 30 minutes to an appointment? *How do I prefer to correspond - phone, e-mail, text or in person? You want to find an attorney who has similar communication preferences.
*Do I prefer a casual or more formal style? This refers to how they dress and their language, not their knowledge of law.
*How involved do I want to be in my case? For estate planning (i.
wills, trusts) or business contracts, involvement is usually confined to giving the lawyer your information, reviewing draft documents and signing the final version.
However, if you are involved in a lawsuit there are many ways you can assist.
It has been my experience that smaller firms and sole practitioners are more open to client involvement.
Now that you have your preferences determined and a pool of attorneys to choose from, it's time for the initial telephone interview.
What do you say when you call an attorney for the first time? The first thing they will ask you is the reason for your call.
Have that information ready so you can tell them in as few words as possible.
It's a good idea to have it written down.
Give them the general description without going into too much detail.
For instance, say, "I was in a car accident and have several injuries.
The insurance company doesn't want to pay" instead of "I was hit by John Doe.
I have head injuries, a broken leg that isn't mending correctly and ABC Insurance doesn't want to pay.
" When you give succinct answers, you come across as: 1) being in control, 2) professional, and, 3) possibly a more desirable client.
You will find out quickly that attorneys love to talk.
Many attorneys (or their staff) will ask many, many questions in that first phone call.
You may feel intimidated into answering.
However, the purpose of this first phone call is to satisfy your needs and determine if they are the right fit for you.
So after telling them the purpose of your call, tell them you have questions you would like to ask first before they start peppering you with questions.
This saves everyone time.
This can be done in a very simple way.
Merely tell them, "I want to find an attorney who is right for my needs and I have some questions I would like to ask.
Thank you.
" Then start in with your questions.
Write down their answers so you can review them later.
Here are some sample questions.
You may think of others while on the phone with them.
Do you have experience with my type of case? Have they handled dozens of cases, hundreds or just a couple? 2.
What is your field of expertise? Even though an attorney may have worked on your type of case, it does not mean they are an expert.
Their expertise may be in another field but for various reasons (help a friend, need more income, required by firm to accept it) took a case.
Do you have time to devote to my case? You want to know if they have a large caseload which already overextends them.
How do you prefer to communicate - phone calls, letters, text, e-mails? 5.
How promptly do you return calls and e-mails? You want to hear "within 24 hours".
This includes response from either the attorney or staff, depending on what is needed.
Will you keep me regularly informed of actions taken in my case? How often? You want these answer to be "Yes" and "as soon as possible".
What is your attorney registration number? Searching the state bar records with attorney registration number tells you whether the attorney has had a grievance filed against him/her.
If they have had a grievance, remove them from your list.
How do you charge - flat fee, hourly or contingency fee? Review the answers and pick a couple of attorneys who fit your criteria.
If none of them are good candidates, start over with some new names.
Once you have decided on a couple of lawyers, you need to interview them in person.
That's a whole other set of rules to follow and questions to ask.
These answers, and much more, are covered in How To Train A Lawyer.
Find it at http://www.
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