How to Choose a Lawyer

Legal Counsel

Representing yourself is a legal right guaranteed by the U.S Constitution, but it is often a bad idea. People who are unfamiliar with the law can hurt themselves in court. Plus, they may be too close to a situation to see it clearly. It could even be said that someone who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

One of the best ways to choose a lawyer or attorney is a referral from a family member or trusted friend. If someone you know well has had a good experience with a lawyer, perhaps you should consider calling that that person to see if he or she handles the type of matter you need help on. If not, that lawyer may still be able to refer you to a qualified lawyer in the specialized field.

If you need a legal assistance and don’t know which person to choose to help you with your particular problem, State Bar Lawyer Referral Services are available in many states. There is normally no charge to use these legal referral services. There is a rating system for attorneys that most state bars will provide. For references, also check local bar associations or professional organizations.

Tips for Hiring an Attorney

The selection should be based on experience, cost, convenience, and your ability to work effectively and comfortably with the attorney.

It is important to agree in advance on how the lawyer will set his legal fees although it may be impossible to determine the exact amount in advance.

Many communities have low-cost legal services including public defenders for criminal cases. Legal aid officers handle civil cases. Some private lawyers also do pro bono work or offer reduced rates for indigent clients.

Sometimes a lawyer can’t help you. Many problems aren’t legal in nature. Other sources of help are the Better Business Bureau, the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, consumer affairs offices, and mediators.

Questions to Ask the Lawyer

Here is a checklist of basic questions to ask before you hire a lawyer:

  1. What is your experience in this field?
  2. Have you handled matters like mine?
  3. What are the possible outcomes of my case?
  4. What are my alternatives in resolving the matter?
  5. Approximately how long will it take to resolve?
  6. Do you recommend mediation or arbitration?
  7. What are your rates and how often will you bill me?
  8. What is a ballpark figure for the total bill, including fees and expenses?
  9. How will you keep me informed of progress?
  10. What kind of approach will you take to resolve the matter – aggressive and unyielding, or will you be more inclined to reach a reasonable settlement?
  11. Who else in the office will be working on my case?
  12. Can junior attorneys or paralegals in the office handle some of the administrative work at a lower rate?