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Choosing a lawyer
Choosing a lawyer can be a difficult and
stressful decision. The combined pressures exerted by whatever circumstances
cause you to need a lawyer in the first place and the desire to make an
informed, good decision in selecting that lawyer can weigh heavily on you.
Maybe you've been sued, or someone has
harmed you and you want to sue. Maybe you've been arrested, or you know the
government is investigating you or your business. Or maybe you need a
divorce, a will, or a new corporation. Whatever the reason, you need a
lawyer, and you need someone who is good and won't cost you a bundle. But
there are so many lawyers. How do you get the right one?
As you would for any major purchase, do a
little research and save yourself from costly mistakes. Narrow your search
to attorneys who practice in the area in which you need services. Look at
the attorneys experience and background. Ask for information about fees and
payment arrangements. Interview attorneys by phone or in person to see if
you would feel comfortable working with them. Here s how
What type of lawyer do you need? Just as you wouldn't go to a dermatologist for a heart ailment, you wouldn't
go to a domestic relations lawyer if you had been charged with a federal
crime. While not every attorney specializes in a particular type of law,
most do practice in one or two specific areas. Finding an attorney who has
experience with your type of legal matter not only means you are likely to
get better advice, but also means you are likely to pay lower fees because
you won t be paying for the attorney to learn a new area of the law.
Attorneys who specialize in your area are also likely to work more quickly
because they will have on hand the applicable law and form documents. If you
look at the areas of practice listed on this site, you will get a good idea
of typical areas of specialty.
How do you find out an attorney s
specialty? You can find an
attorney s specialty or area of practice in several ways. A good starting
point is to look at listings at this site. You can also look in the yellow
pages, read advertisements in the paper, call your local bar association or
legal referral service, or look up attorneys web sites. In addition, public
libraries often have listings of attorneys by geographic region and
describes their practices.
Where can you get information about an
attorney s background? The
listings in the libraries may contain background information about the
attorneys listed, including age, law school, bar admissions, papers written,
law association positions held, and reported cases handled by the attorney.
Similar information might also be provided by an attorney s web site. Your
local bar association can tell you when an attorney was admitted to practice
in your state, and confirm that the attorney is a member of the bar in your
state, but usually will not give out more information. If the bar
association has a referral service, the service should be able to provide
you with additional information. Many attorneys have brochures about their
practices that you can call and request, and they will also tell you their
qualifications if you ask.
How should you interview attorneys? Once you have the names of a few attorneys who practice the type of law you
need, interview them to see if you feel they would do a good job for you.
Call the attorneys and explain what legal services you need, and ask for a
meeting. Most attorneys will give you an "initial consultation" of fifteen
or twenty minutes at no charge. Note, however, that you probably will not
get specific legal advice during this initial meeting because the attorney
will need to have detailed information from you before providing advice.
Instead, use this time to ask the attorney about his or her background and
experience, how he or she would handle your legal matter, how much he or she
charges, and what fee arrangements are available. In evaluating the attorney
s responses, look for a personality that you would be comfortable working
with, experience handling matters similar to yours, a confident manner, and
Are women attorneys better? Some people look for women lawyers for a variety of reasons. They think
women listen better, work harder, are more sympathetic, or are more likely
to resolve matters without litigation. They may also think that a woman
attorney might have a favorable impact on juries, particularly if the woman
is defending a man accused of harming a woman in some way. Of course, all
such thoughts are based on stereotypes and will not necessarily be true.
Male attorneys can be just as hard working and sympathetic as female
attorneys, and female attorneys can be just as aggressive and bull-headed as
male attorneys. Your best course is to choose an attorney, male or female,
with the qualifications and qualities that you think will best serve your
Once you decide to call
a lawyer, the next decision is which one. In order to determine this, the
following is a list of suggestions that might help you decide who to call:
- a. Ask friends, teachers, employer, co-workers, minister, relatives,
neighbors, or anyone you trust which lawyer(s) they have used and if they
did a good job;
- b. Go to the Internet and search for lawyers in your area, or use the www.lawyers-uk.org.uk directory to find a lawyer in your area.
- c. Ask other lawyers, or
- d. Call your local Legal Aid or Public Defender's office to see if you
qualify for representation.