Hiring a lawyer can be an intimidating task. Here are 7 things to look for when you need a lawyer.
LICENSED BY STATE BAR?
A threshold issue is whether the person is a licensed attorney and whether they have a record of discipline with the State Bar. If you are looking for an attorney in California, here is the website for the State Bar of California: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/. Enter the attorney's name in the "Look Up a Lawyer" search section. After entering the name, you can find out whether the person you are searching for is currently licensed as an attorney and whether they have a record of discipline with the State Bar. If you are looking for an attorney outside of California, I suggest you contact the State Bar for that state.
In today’s sophisticated legal environment, you want your attorney to practice at least 50% of their time in the area that you are hiring them for. You can ask the attorney how much of her practice is devoted to your area of interest, and by visiting the attorney’s website you should be able to tell what areas of law she practices. A good indication that the attorney devotes a majority of her time to a particular area of law is that she is a member of professional organizations that deal with that specialty. For instance, the State Bar and the local bar associations have sections for lawyers who practice in specific areas of the law.
The number of years that the attorney has been licensed and the number of years that the attorney has practiced in your area of law are both important factors you will want to consider.
If you will be visiting your attorney’s office on a regular basis, you will want them to be convenient to you. If you will only visit your attorney’s office occasionally, this might not be as important a requirement for you.
Can you reach your attorney? Does your attorney answer phone calls and emails? Regardless of what type of case you have, it is important that your attorney answer your questions and concerns. While there may be questions that an assistant can answer for you, when you need your attorney’s input, it is important to know that you can reach the attorney directly.
Will your attorney spend enough time with you to understand your particular situation or will the attorney hand your file off to an assistant to fill in the forms? Each client has different needs and preferences and should be treated as a person, not as a file. What will your attorney do to personalize your documents or your strategy for you?
A GOOD FIT
Lastly, do you and your attorney have the same general opinion about your case? Do you have the same general outlook and get along on a personal level? While this may not be the determining factor in choosing an attorney, it can make life easier if you enjoy the attorney that you are working with.
Next time you need to hire an attorney, consider these 7 factors to help you find the best attorney for you.
Originally published by Susan on September 29, 2014.