One of the duties of an attorney, I feel, is to teach or explain what they do. If the client is paying the attorney, there is definitely a duty to explain, or make understandable, the attorney’s work product to the client. When the prospective client is looking for a lawyer to help resolve legal issues, I would imagine two of the most common questions would be: “how can I find the right attorney for the job?” And “how can I find an attorney I trust?” Below are a few tips, suggestions and things to consider when looking for a trustworthy attorney to help resolve your legal issues.
This writing is the second version of a column I wrote five years ago, and since I am now teaching a multi-week course called “savvy seniors”; the title of the first week course is “selecting an advisor – things you need to know, fees, expectations”, I am killing two birds with one stone, by preparing a written handout for my upcoming class, which you are reading now. Hopefully, this will be useful to the reader for finding great attorneys across the legal industry.
1) Seek Out Specialization
Seek out a specialist attorney for specialized legal work. That is: hire a divorce lawyer for a divorce, hire a wills attorney for a will, bankruptcy lawyer for bankruptcy, etc. Make sure that the attorney has a reputation for practicing that specific area of law. Confirm an attorney’s bar certification at the state bar website. Find the law school the attorney attended and search that law school’s ranking.
2) Check Their Reputation
Use the internet to research an attorney’s professional reputation or their reputation for good performance in specific practice areas. Try web searching an attorney’s full name or search “What’s the reputation of attorney ’John Doe’?” and review the results. Look for search result reviews of an attorney’s services on independent reviewing websites (like Google Maps) to help evaluate the quality of lawyers’ services. Also look for search results of blogs, articles, videos or other media and content produced by the attorney related to your specific legal issues.
3) Request a Retainer Agreement
Always ask an attorney for a proposed agreement for services that clearly states the legal work to be performed with a fee schedule and explanations of fees. This agreement is typically called an engagement letter or retainer agreement. A prospective client should be able to review, ask questions, understand and accept the offered agreement before any work is performed. An attorney must tell you his or her fees for the services they will perform. The basis of a good attorney-client relationship is a good attorney-client agreement.
4) Get a Second Opinion
Get a second opinion. For most legal services searched, there will likely be several legal providers competing for your business. Ask around by calling several law firms and by talking with other attorneys to get another legal opinion and compare the fees, quality, and services.
5) Go with your gut
Only work with an attorney with whom you feel comfortable. You could possibly find an attorney with a great reputation and still not feel right about the relationship. If you are not comfortable with the attorney, look for another. Use your intuition; it’s there for good reason