[PHOTO CREDIT: iStock / Pattanaphong Kauankaew]
(From our LLN “Guest Author” Series.)
People are currently bombarded with vast amounts of information. This means it should be relatively easy to find the right lawyer for your situation. However, I am often asked, “How do I find a good lawyer?”
The practice of law currently is dominated by specialists. Gone are the days when the long-time family lawyer could write a Will, conduct a real estate closing, and hold a criminal trial—all in the same day. Nowadays, therefore, a “good lawyer” might properly be defined as the one who is best prepared to handle your specific situation. How do I find this person? What questions should I ask?
The most important question is whether the lawyer has an area of specialty or expertise. Simply asking the lawyer if he or she has experience may not be enough. Most areas of law have specific trade groups or associations in which specialists maintain membership. For example, criminal defense lawyers have the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Similarly, experienced civil trial lawyers belong to the American Association for Justice. Groups such as these provide valuable educational support—and primarily this education consists of legal updates. The law is living and dynamic; hence it is changing on an almost daily basis. Remaining up to date is critical for the modern-day lawyer. The lawyers that are members of these types of groups will typically be the best prepared to handle a case within their area of expertise.
Another important consideration is to determine what past-results the lawyer has attained in a particular area of practice. (You can simply ask the lawyer for examples of his or her past work or you can investigate this on your own. Most legal transactions are public record and can be determined very easily. Then too, many lawyers have extensive web sites which will list their past accomplishments.) However, remember that every case is a bit different; therefore your results may be different. Nonetheless, you can at least gauge your lawyer’s experience level based upon past-results. Additionally, if you have a friend or family member who has used a lawyer in the past, it may be a good idea to ask for a referral. Even if the lawyer cannot personally handle your case, this same attorney usually can make an appropriate referral. (It should be easy for a local lawyer to find the right person to handle the matter; all lawyers are trained to identify legal issues quickly, and so with a short consultation you can be referred to the appropriate specialist.)
Now that you have found the right type of lawyer with sufficient experience, what is next? It is absolutely necessary that you are comfortable with, and have confidence in, your lawyer: Is he or she going to be accessible? Will my phone calls be returned? Does the lawyer have the staff and resources to handle my particular case? These are very important questions that can usually be answered only with a face-to-face interview at the lawyer’s office. Lastly, beware of the lawyer who only tells you what you want to hear. You need a lawyer who is going to tell you the ̔good̕ and the ‘bad’ up front. Just because a lawyer has a big billboard or catchy slogan on TV does not mean that the attorney will be the best one for your case. Again, a “good lawyer” for you will be one that has the expertise and experience in the particular area that you need. If you are comfortable and confident with your choice, hopefully your legal issue will be resolved favorably.
Attorney Gregory P. Smith is a Tavares, Florida, lawyer whose practice is devoted to Personal Injury matters. He was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1987. [PHOTO CREDIT: Provided]