There's more to selecting a lawyer than picking a name in the phone book or "Googling" for one in your area. This is a major decision and you want to spend some time making sure you select the right lawyer for your needs.

Your Aunt Anne may have used a lawyer once and told you he was excellent, but maybe Aunt Anne had different needs from you and not every case is the same. A personal recommendation is an excellent place to start, but it's only a place to start.

When selecting a lawyer, you'll want to:

  • Learn about your legal problem. Search the Internet for FAQs, start by reading articles or discussing it with others who may have been in a similar situation
  • Call your local attorney referral service, typically provided by your state or city bar association
  • Use
    • Find a Lawyer. Search for lawyers in your city and state in the type of problem you have
    • Peer Review and Client Review Ratings to find out more about your potential lawyers. These resources provide unbiased ratings from other lawyers, and other people who have used their services.
    • Consult your family lawyer, or an attorney who you know through sports or church, or an accountant, realtor or other professional. Many attorneys tend to specialize, and the good ones usually have an established reputation in the community.

    Narrow List

    Once you've narrowed the list down to several names, use the following checklist to screen them:

    • Look at biographical information, including whatever you can find on lawyer and law firm Web sites. Do they appear to have expertise in the area of law you need?
    • What kind of clients does the attorney represent? Check the lawyer's profile and client list. If you can't tell, call the lawyer's office and find out
    • Click on the law firm Web site to find out more about individual lawyers and firms
    • Use search engines to find articles, white papers or other informational pieces the lawyer has written? Does the attorney participate in any online chats or blog? A discussion board?
    • Ask people in your area if they've heard of the attorneys and what they think about them
    • Check out the online archives of your local newspaper. Has there been any publicity about the lawyer or the cases that he or she has handled?
    • Do you have any special needs to consider such as requiring an attorney who speaks a language other than English?

    At this point, you'll have a "short list" of two or three names. Contact the attorney's firm and schedule a consultation. Some firms will charge a consultation fee to meet with you, so expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $250 for an initial consultation.  Many firms do offer free first meetings.

    Finally, use your common sense and gut instincts in deciding who to hire. Your relationship can last several years and require a good working relationship and trust. You want to choose the best lawyer to do the best job for you.

    Don't be surprised if the attorney cannot meet with you on short notice. On the other hand, a wait of more than a week is a sign that the attorney may be too busy to give a new case such as yours the time and attention it requires.

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