Almost everything we do is affected by the laws. There are so many laws that it would take a person with an average reading ability more than a thousand years just to read the law book. As if we had nothing more to do with our lives than reading laws. So what do we do when a legal situation arises? Do we handle it ourselves or do we call an attorney who has been trained in the legal field? For many people, the idea of calling an attorney can be frightening. Sometimes they don’t even know if they need a lawyer or how to choose one, so they can avoid contacting a lawyer even when it’s best for them to do so. However, do your homework before hiring an attorney for yourself and/or your business. At a time when you face serious legal or medical problems, you still need to make a good, informed decision about who will represent you. And it doesn’t have to be as difficult or as expensive as you think to find a good lawyer. Here are some quick tips that can ease the stress of finding a lawyer.
Can I represent myself?
You have the right to represent yourself. However, the law is extremely complex and changes frequently. Unless you spend 100% of your time educating yourself with all the laws and legal procedures relevant to your case, you have a good chance of losing. You can easily overlook a legal aspect that affects your case and can sometimes bring unintended legal consequences that can be difficult and costly to undo. Therefore, you need to weigh the risks and benefits of representing yourself against hiring an attorney to represent your case.
When should I contact an attorney?
When faced with a problem that you believe needs legal attention, you may want to consult with an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities as soon as possible. Many states have deadlines for filing lawsuits, especially for personal injuries. These “statute of limitations” laws are designed to encourage people to come forward quickly and present their case. But this does not mean that you simply have to choose the first lawyer you meet because you are in a hurry, as you will learn from these tips.
How do I choose the “right” lawyer for me?
From a personal point of view, selecting a lawyer is always a personal matter. But, as with any service provider, the lawyer is only serving his client. Therefore, the attorney-client relationship must be based on trust and open and honest communication so that the attorney can offer the best of his or her service. It requires a mutual commitment on the part of both the client and the attorney. If the client is not cooperating fully, the attorney cannot provide the best of his or her service. At the same time, if the attorney is not easily accessible and does not respond quickly to your phone calls, emails and requests, you will receive nothing but frustration. Therefore, when choosing the “right” attorney for your case, you need to feel 100% comfortable talking to that attorney and feel confident in his or her skills. If there is only one doubt, you have to keep looking. Your case is too important to entrust to someone who does not inspire your trust.
From a professional standpoint, people often believe that just any lawyer can handle any case. This misleading trust is often detrimental to the client. No lawyer is trained in all areas of the law. Therefore, in order to find the “right” attorney for your case, you should not be shy about asking your prospective attorney questions until you gain full confidence in his or her ability. Only then would you select that attorney. In fact, while asking questions, you will be able to observe the lawyer’s responsiveness and willingness to cooperate with you. Some of the most important questions you should ask your prospective attorney as you go through the selection process are:
- How much experience do you have in this area of law (the area of your legal need)?
- Will you or one of your associates handle my case? – If an associate handles your case, that’s the person you need to interview.
- How many cases like mine have you handled? – ask for specific information for each case.
- Could you give me references for some or each case? – Be sure to call each client to learn about their experience.
A responsible and understanding attorney would have no problem giving you answers. If the attorney is spinning around for each question and not giving you specific answers, you need to keep looking. Also, always check with your state bar association if that attorney has been the subject of a complaint or ethical investigation.
Where can I find a lawyer?
No matter where you look for an attorney, always keep the above advice in mind when choosing the right attorney for you. However, here are some places to look for a lawyer:
Yellow Pages and Ads – When you open your local yellow pages, doesn’t it look like doctors and lawyers cover half of the book with ads? They almost seem to be the only ones who have the money for full ad pages. Speaking of ads, unless you have knowledge and experience in marketing/sales, you’ll never know how ads work. Ads are developed to psychologically activate your emotional senses and make you respond to the ad’s call to action. It’s a science in itself. Therefore, you, as the average consumer, would have no idea which ad is telling the truth and which has disproportioned it. But, this is a very good place to at least get some names and phone numbers from local attorneys and start your selection process.
Your Society Circle – Your family, friends, people you work with, people you talk to, people you know… start asking around. This is one of your most trusted sources. You will have the opportunity to get first-hand experience. Someone who has been in the same or similar situation could tell you about your experience (good or bad) with your lawyer. If your experience has been nothing but good, you have half your work done. And even if no one in your social circle can refer you to a lawyer, you may know someone else in your social circle who may have been in a similar situation. Some of the most trusted referrals come from people you trust – business owners, friends and family – who have recently used lawyers. The word of mouth of a satisfied client is usually very reliable.
Bar Associations – This is another reliable source. Your local bar association may maintain a lawyer referral service, which is a list of its members by specialty who will consult with you for free or at a special rate set by the bar association for the first conference. The Bar Association can also inform you if a lawyer has been the subject of an ethical complaint or investigation by previous clients.
Internet – In fact, the Internet. But, this is your least reliable source because everything could be put on the net. However, as with advertisements, you could use the Internet to at least get a list of local attorneys practicing in your problem area so that you can begin the selection process. On the Internet, search for lawyer directories, such as Martindale.com; lawyer referral services, such as LegalMatch.com; person/company search services, such as Anywho.com; and simply your favorite search engine.