Choosing an Attorney

Choosing an attorney can be very stressful.  How do you know which one is best?  How can you be sure that your lawyer will do a good job?  And usually, when you are seeking an attorney, it is because you are already in a stressful situation.

Experience and Background Matters - First and foremost, you need to make sure the attorney you hire has the right kind of experience.  Many attorneys specialize in handling certain types of cases.  For example, some lawyers handle only bankruptcy cases, while others specialize in divorces or personal injury cases.  Your attorney needs to know the ins and outs of the law that governs your specific problem.  A bankruptcy attorney, for instance, may not be knowledgeable about landlord and tenant laws.  General practitioners, however, can often handle a variety of issues.  This could save you from having to choose several different attorneys if you have more than one matter to resolve.

Types of Attorneys - Here are some of the ways attorneys specialize:

  • Bankruptcy attorneys help consumers find debt relief.
  • Civil Rights defends your rights such as freedom of speech, freedom to vote, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to vote, freedom from slavery and the right to be treated fairly in public places.
  • Consumer attorneys handle cases involving complaints about misleading advertising or unlawful business practices.
  • Corporate attorneys supervise commercial transactions.
  • Criminal attorneys defends people accused of breaking the law.
  • Elder Law attorneys take special interest in laws that affect older people and their families.
  • Employment attorneys proteect people’s rights at their workplace.
  • Family attorneys deal with laws concerning family matters.
  • Immigration lawyers represent individuals who wish to become citizens of the United States.
  • Intellectual Property attorneys are also known as patent attorneys and trademark lawyers.
  • Medical Malpractice attorneys handle cases involving alleged mistakes made by medical professionals.
  • Personal Injury attorneys represent people injured due to negligence on the part of another person or business.
  • Product Liability lawyers specialize in products that cause harm.
  • Real Estate lawyers negotiate transactions concerning housing and property.
  • Tax lawyers specialize in tax laws.
  • Trusts, Wills, Estates and Probate attorneys advise clients on wills and transfer of wealth.

Personality Isn't as Important - Choose your attorney based on experience, not personality.  While many lawyers may be kind and understanding, it's critical that your attorney know exactly how to handle your situation.  Unless your legal problem is highly unusual, an experienced attorney should understand your situation immediately and know exactly what to do.  If the lawyer needs to look up the law or study prior cases, it's a good bet this lawyer does not have the adequate expertise to handle your case.

Do Your Research - Choosing the right attorney can take several days and can be a very time-consuming process.  If you have no recommendations from friends or family, you will have to make phone calls and ask  questions.  Some of the most important questions involve how much the services will cost you.  Is there a retainer fee?  Is it a flat fee, or will you be charged an hourly rate?  Are your telephone calls included in hourly charges?  What kind of expenses are you expected to pay for the attorney, such as phone charges, postage and parking?  Will your case be handled by the attorney or a paralegal?  Attorney Referral services can be an easy way to narrow your search. These firms have been pre-screened, which allows you to avoid spending a great deal of time calling and questioning potential firms.

Get Organized  - The more organized you are, the better your attorney will be able to serve you.  Keep all records, and put everything in writing.  It even helps to keep records of phone calls made to any parties involved in your legal matter, including the name of the person you talked with and the date and time of the call.

While you should expect your attorney to be attentive to your needs, you must also realize that these matters sometimes take time.  Don't call your attorney every day or expect a return call immediately, as lawyers are often out of the office in court proceedings.  However, you should receive a return call within two or three days.