When you have a legal problem, selecting the right lawyer for you is the number one thing you can do to correct that problem. There are many things to consider when hiring an attorney. You should do your homework before the meeting:
1. Check the internet for complaints (one complaint shouldn’t concern you necessarily, as lawyers frequently have to deal with people who are unhappy with an outcome that the lawyer can do nothing about and take it out on the lawyer…but if you see many complaints about the same sort of issues its a red flag!).
2. Check the internet for accolades…why do people like this lawyer? For example, if its because they were very aggressive, but that isn’t what you are looking for…move on.
3. How was the phone call? The lawyer may not answer all of your questions on an initial phone call because there are some ethical concerns, particularly if your case is complicated. However, did they talk to you directly or were you put through to a paralegal or secretary and not allowed to speak to the lawyer? If that’s happening now, you can expect that is how it will be when you hire them. For some matters, this might be okay, but if you want personal service with a lawyer, this isn’t the one for you. Did you feel like the lawyer was listening to you when you talked? Did you feel like their responses to you were forthright?
4. One question many women have is whether or not they should hire female lawyers or male lawyers. Some reason out that if they want an “aggressive” lawyer, they need a male but if they want a “compassionate” one they need a female. The fact is, lawyers of both genders come in many styles. You should find the lawyer that is the best fit for YOU, not based on gender but on their individual personalities. That being said, if you know that you have a prejudice for one gender or another, you should go with whatever you are comfortable with. It is imperative that you, as the client, are at ease with your choice, but I urge you to examine that prejudice and be sure it is not interfering with your selection of the BEST lawyer.
5. Check the lawyer for ethics violations. One place you can check is Avvo.com. Avvo has a ratings system that is somewhat controversial among lawyers because it is based in part on your interaction with the website. So, take lightly the rating that Avvo has assigned your lawyer. However, if there is a list of ethics complaints or “professional misconduct”, that is gleaned from state sources and therefore you can take those seriously. Most lawyers will face ethics complaints at some point in their career, whether they are substantiated or not. However, a pattern of ethical censuring by the state they practice in should be a matter of concern for you.
6. Are you comfortable with their office staff? Some lawyers have no staff. Some have a receptionist they share with others in their building. Some have a staff with paralegals, secretaries and receptionists. If your potential lawyer does have any kind of staff that you interact with, make sure you feel comfortable with them too because when you call, you will likely have to deal with some of them at least some of the time. Lawyers are out of the office often for meetings and court appearances, so if you regularly have to call a receptionist you find surly, or deal with a paralegal you think is too flirty, it might color your experience in a very negative way. If you love the lawyer and can tolerate the staff, that’s probably good enough. But if you are just okay with the lawyer and the staff drives you crazy, maybe this isn’t the office for you.
7. Above all, don’t make your decision on price alone. A good lawyer will cost money. You don’t have to hire the most expensive lawyer, but a lawyer who is significantly cheaper than all other lawyers in the region may be so for a reason (unless they are specially discounting for you because they know you or there is a hardship they are trying to help with).