Guide to Choosing a Good Lawyer
Trying to choose a good lawyer but don’t know where to start? The first thing is knowing you should not try to handle a legal issue that involves a great deal of money yourself, even if you are already a lawyer. You should choose a proven attorney with proven experience in the problem you have.
If your situation involves being an innocent victim of another’s negligence, including injuries needing medical treatment, you need to find a good lawyer to represent you. Do not spend too much time evaluating attorney advertising. Do your own investigation and get some personal referrals.
Ask friends, family, and other trusted lawyers who they would hire to represent them if they had the same problem, or if they have any tips for choosing a good lawyer. If you’re injured in a car accident with the other driver clearly at fault, find a good personal injury lawyer, experienced with representing plaintiffs who must fight for fair settlements from insurance companies who are notorious for shaky tactics to avoid paying valid claims.
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While those lawyers with good track records of success are the “right” attorneys for you, one personal referral is often just one individual’s opinion. If you know one or more other lawyers, ask them who they would want to represent them if they had the same problem. If possible, get as many first party referrals from other attorneys and lay people as you can. That way you’ll build up a short list of competent lawyers.
Although most states do not have a procedure for certifying lawyers who specialize in specific areas of the law, this fact makes personal referrals more vital to a successful case result. You’ll still need to meet with and interview other lawyers to learn whose personality and “bedside manner” is most appealing to you.
For example, if you’re injured in a car accident, you’ll want an outstanding personal injury attorney. Follow these general suggestions and lawyer selection rules of thumb.
- Be sure the lawyer has a concise and clear fee structure – personal injury attorneys usually handle cases on a contingency fee basis (they don’t get paid until you get paid).
- Choose a lawyer who is a good communicator.
- Research lawyers who have proven successful “track records” of success.
- Decide if you want a large (many attorneys) or smaller, boutique law firm (from single practitioner to around 10 attorneys).
- Be sure the lawyer you favor has experience or is, at least, a younger “rising star” in the legal arena.
Select the Specialty Law Firm that Suits Your Legal Problem
If you already know an outstanding divorce lawyer, but you have injuries from a car accident, your search should include firms that specialize in personal injury. Even with a personal referral from a trusted person, you should research the lawyer to learn how actual clients rate him/her and whether the attorney has any legal misconduct formal complaints alleged against him or her.
Never put too much stock in advertising claims because, like every other business, paid ads claim that business is the best. Testimonials on the law firm website is similar to an ad. A firm will not use an unfavorable client review (do you blame them?) as a testimonial.
Choosing the right lawyer is vital, regardless of the legal problem you’re having. Choose an attorney that has demonstrated expertise with cases similar to yours.
Find a lawyer with whom you have some good chemistry and whose fees are clearly stated. If you’re paying for hours and expenses or contingency fees for personal injury settlements, always know your financial responsibilities before you hire a lawyer to represent you.
Timothy C. Moynahan is the CEO and owner of Moynahan Partners, which offers business development consultancy, identifying strategic business partnerships and funding sources. He founded and heads the Moynahan Law Firm, Waterbury, Connecticut, and is “of counsel” to the Jin Law Group at 200 Park Avenue in New York. He is a sought-after and successful trial lawyer, earning the Super Lawyer of New England and Connecticut awards from 2009 to 2012 and Best Criminal Defense Attorney accolade in 2013.