Hi there, Luke here, with a few thoughts on how to find a lawyer who will do a good job on your case, without overcharging you, and who will be enjoyable to work with.
Here is a handful of some of the most common ways people often choose a lawyer:
- Call that guy whose billboard you’ve seen lots of times
- Pick the first lawyer with a full-page ad in the yellow pages
- Click on the first link on the top of the page in your Google search
- Contact a referral service
- Ask a question on those “free legal advice sites” and get swarmed with answers like “This is complex. You need a lawyer. Call me!”
Unfortunately, these are potential minefields. What they all have in common is that the lawyers are saying, “Pick me! Pick Me! I want your money!” In fact, in numbers 1 – 4 (and often #5), the lawyers are spending a lot of money to get your attention. As you can imagine, they aren’t charities. Some will see you as their meal ticket, and little more.
Worse, you usually have no way of knowing if they are any good!
There’s a much better way to find a lawyer you can trust. It’s simple:
- Know a good one in advance.
I’m being ridiculous, of course, but it’s still, sadly, true.
(The Solution in Real Life)
If you don’t already know a good lawyer in advance, not all is lost. There are still a couple of ways to find a good one who will work hard to earn your trust and protect your interests.
- Ask around among people you already know and trust.
- Call multiple lawyers and interview them until you find one who gives you a good gut feeling
Each of these has its benefits and dangers.
Be careful. Most people have never used a lawyer, and those who have might not have any idea if their lawyer was a good one, because they have no other experience to use in comparison. “My lawyer seemed alright” shouldn’t give you much comfort.
However, if someone can describe to you why their lawyer was so great, for example “He communicated with me really well, he explained all my options, and he never pressured me to make a decision,” or “He actually tried to save me money by showing me a way to accomplish my goal without a lawyer,” you’re off to a good start.
Calling lawyers yourself
Once again, be careful. If you need a lawyer, you’re probably already in a stressful and confusing situation. Don’t just go with the first lawyer who says, “Sure, I can help you with that. Send me a check and I’ll get on it.” Also, be wary of lawyers who try to scare you into hiring them, or who put down other lawyers in an attempt to make themselves seem like your best option.
Who should you hire, then? Like I said a moment ago, it’s often your smartest move to go with your gut:
- Does the lawyer seem like he knows what he’s doing, or does he just say that he does?
- Is the lawyer talking about how affordable she is, or how much she is actually going to give you a good return on your dollar?
- Is the lawyer going to work your case personally or pass it off to a junior associate?
- Does the lawyer treat you as an equally valuable person or talk down to you?
- Does the lawyer boast about his elite law school / brag about what a “fighter” he is? Neither of these necessarily means that the lawyer does good legal work.
- Do you like the lawyer?
If, after talking to the lawyer in your initial consultation, you don’t have a good feeling about the lawyer, call another one.
I’ve had to hire lawyers three times in my life. The first two times (incidentally, before I was a lawyer myself), all I did was ask for recommendations from others, and I had no idea what questions to ask before hiring the lawyers. In both cases, I spent thousands of dollars and got nothing, literally nothing, out of it. In the first, I even had to call the lawyer and say, “Isn’t the contract supposed to say [something different than he wrote],” to which he replied, “Oops, good job catching that!”
When I started writing this, I had planned to write a very positive note. Looking back, I see a lot of warnings in addition to the constructive advice. Thing is, they still apply: If you need a lawyer, you need a good one.
Obviously, I think I’m one of the good ones. I founded my practice on the principle that I was going to help people, not just make money off of them. I invite you to call me and find out for yourself. Even if I don’t think I’m the right lawyer for you, I will do my best to recommend the one who is.