What to Look for in a Lawyer
When you need a lawyer, you need a good one. Whether you're pursuing a personal injury case or going through a divorce, you can't afford to make a mistake when it comes to selecting the right attorney to represent you. Here's what you should look for when you're searching for the perfect attorney.
A great reputation
Good lawyers have good reputations. They win cases and please clients. Their opponents respect them, and so do their co-workers and the judges. Good lawyers get rave reviews from former clients, and their former clients will recommend them.
So when you go looking for a lawyer, ask around. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Check out online review websites and look for lawyers who have pleased lots of other clients. Check attorney websites for testimonials. Do a Google search and read news stories about attorneys who you are considering. You'll get a sense of your would-be attorney's reputation in the real world and the professional one, explains Maryam Parman, a California lawyer whose own reputation as a "Super Woman Super Lawyer" is well-established.
A lot of good lawyers are out there, but not all of them live in the area where you case will be heard. When you go looking for an attorney, you want to pick one who is local.
There are a lot of reasons for this. A local attorney will be licensed to practice in the area. He or she will also know local and state laws well, which may be crucial to your case. And a local attorney may even know the judges or the opposition. A personal touch can help in the courtroom, just as it can in so many other areas of life. So get a local professional to represent you.
You'll find local attorneys through your local bar association website or through the Better Business Bureau, among other places.
Experience and expertise
You want your lawyer to really know his or her stuff. You want a lawyer with tons of legal knowledge and great interpersonal skills. And, ideally, you want a lawyer with a bit of experience under his or her belt.
With an experienced lawyer, you'll know what you're getting. An experienced lawyer will be easier to research (he or she will have more reviews and news stories about them), and you can trust that a good one will deliver consistent results.
Your lawyer is going to handle the tricky legal stuff that you can't do yourself. When you're in a complex legal situation, you absolutely need an attorney. When you don't get one, or wait too long to get one, or try to represent yourself (please don't do this), things don't go well.
But this doesn't mean that your attorney will take your case and then take care of it while ignoring you. You'll want to remain in the loop, and you'll want to have the information that you need to make key strategic decisions.
And that means that you'll want an attorney who communicates clearly and who is good at explaining legal concepts and situations in language that you can understand. Good communication is a key skill for a lawyer, and you should demand it. You'll have the opportunity to size up this situation when you go to your initial consultation. Remember, your consultation isn't just for your attorney to decide if he or she wants to take the case — it's also your opportunity to decide whether you want to hire the attorney!
A personal touch
Related to communication is the personal touch. Do you feel like the attorney really cares about you and your case? Or do you feel like a cog in a machine? Does the attorney have a good attitude, or a bad one?
Keep in mind that the personal touch issue goes beyond in-person meetings. At large firms, you can't always trust that "your" attorney is the one doing the work. Junior partners, paralegals, or even interns could be handling some of the work on your case. How much will depend on the firm.
Consider your options
You'll have choices when you look for an attorney. Make your decision carefully, and choose the professional who will give you the best possible experience and the best possible results.