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Finding And Hiring The Right Attorney

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Hiring an attorney is a significant, life-altering decision. Here are some tips for making the process less intimidating and increasing the likelihood of finding the right match for you.

To begin, consult with a lawyer you trust, even if you know that he or she is not the right attorney for your particular need. Real estate attorneys often know personal injury attorneys, and vice versa. If you don’t know any attorneys, then speak with a trusted family member or friend and ask them for a suggestion. They may not know the particular type of attorney you need, but they may be able to connect you with an attorney who can help you in your search. If none of that is possible, then there is the Internet. The Internet is a good way to learn about an attorney someone has suggested, although it is a difficult place to start a search, because there are so many choices and it is difficult to properly differentiate them.

Once you have a few possibilities, assess their expertise and experience. We live in a time of specialization, as very well described in Geoffrey Hazard’s article, “Changing Structure in the Practice of Law.” A great tax lawyer is unlikely to be a good choice for handling an employment discrimination claim. Even within the “litigation” practice area, there are sub-specialties – a personal injury attorney may not be the right person to defend you in a criminal matter or a probate dispute. Assess how experienced and successful the attorney is within their particular practice area.

An “in person” meeting is critical. Provide the attorney with all the necessary information – don’t hold back the problems and weak spots. You need an honest evaluation of your claim, and it will only hurt you in the long run if you hold back on such critical information. It will also get you off on the wrong foot in such an important relationship, which must be based on honesty and truth. Ask the prospective attorney everything that you are curious about, and assess whether you receive knowledgeable, honest answers. This may include their thoughts about your case, how it will be handled, critical events in the process and the nature of thehandshake attorney-client agreement. They may not be able to predict the likelihood and extent of success, but that does not mean they are not qualified – in fact, the inability to predict is often the most honest, credible answer.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to an intangible feeling on your part. Did the attorney seem genuinely interested in you or were they more concerned about “signing you up.” Some clients want to know whether their attorneys are public-spirited, active members of the legal profession itself. Others care about the location and size of the firm, and how cases are handled. The attorney-client relationship is often deep and long-lasting, built upon honest, ongoing communication, so how you feel about your attorney and law firm is probably the most important factor. The legal system can be intimidating – find a highly qualified, caring, trustworthy attorney to guide you through it.

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