How to Find a Great Attorney

Attorneys & Lawyers

When looking to find a great attorney, there are several things to keep in mind. While you might think they are all basically the same, they are not. You need to focus your efforts on finding a lawyer that has effectively dealt with your specific legal issue.

Most people begin by asking their family and friends, but the odds of them knowing an attorney that handles your specific needs is unlikely. Many people have had success using online directories like SmartGuy.com, which lists thousands of attorney’s and other local professionals many with ratings you can verify. Regardless, here are a few things that will help you find a great attorney.

What Type of attorney do you need
The first step is to find an attorney that specializes in the practice area that your case involves. It is also a good idea to find an attorney familiar with the courts and laws of the local area where you live. Some of the common practice areas include: Bankruptcy law, Criminal law, Disability specialist, Trusts and estates, Family Law, Personal injury, Employment law or  Small business or corporate law.

Look into references and past clients
Ask for a list of past clients from each attorney and call them to see how they did, how long their case took and if they experienced any issues working with the attorney.

Look into reviews
Before hiring any attorney or lawyer, look and see if they have a BBB rating or SmartGuy rating. You can also enter the attorney’s name followed by the words “rip off” or “scam” and see if anything comes up. You might also find some information on their company at State bar associations since they keep public records about complaints and disciplinary actions taken against attorneys who are licensed to practice in the state. 

Review their website
An attorney's website tells you a great deal about them. Not just the facts, but how they are presented. Many include information about the type of law the attorney practices, their background,  law school and other areas of specialization. Often they also include some general information about the type of legal issue you need help with, including a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section, or a blog with articles pertaining to your legal issue. 

Size can matter
Law firms vary in size ranging from small one attorney offices to larger firms with many attorneys. Choose a law firm that you think will be best suited to your situation. Big corporations may want to hire a big-time firm to handle extremely complicated, often international, legal matters. However, if you are simply looking for someone to help you with your divorce or to help you write a will, you might feel more comfortable hiring an attorney from a smaller firm. Often, they can give you more personalized attention.

Take the time to be prepared
Attorneys are often very expensive, and even if your first visit is free, you want to maximize your time. Begin by visiting their website and any FAQ (frequently asked questions) sections. Then make a list of any questions you still want answered. For example: Pricing, Delivery time for legal work, Success rate and their Availability. Also be sure to ask them what materials you should bring to the meeting. You will want to gather these documents ahead of time to be sure that you can locate them on the day of the appointment.

Select an attorney you are comfortable with
Personality and instincts play an important part in finding a great attorney. Aside from experience and strong knowledge of the law, choose an attorney who you think that you would get along with and like working with. If the attorney makes you uncomfortable in any way, you should perhaps select a different one to represent you. Also consider how well the attorney answered your questions. If they hesitated, used too much "legalese," or didn't attend to your needs, pick someone else. You need to feel that they understand and care about you and your unique situation.

Finally, the costs
Most attorneys bill in three ways: flat fee, a contingency fee or hourly fees. An attorney charging a flat fee will charge a one fee for the handling of the  entire matter, regardless of how many hours they take (such as drafting a will or trust document).  An attorney charging a contingency fee does not collect legal fees from the client unless the attorney recovers money for the client, either through a settlement or a trial. They will instead receive a percentage of the settlement amount, many times between 30 to 40 percent (for example in personal injury cases). Lawyers charging an hourly rate “bill” hours and then charge the client for the amount of hours worked on the client’s matter. 

Finding a great attorney that satisfies your needs can be easy if you take the necessary steps to find a good match. Hopefully, these tips will help you in your pursuit.