Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Rod Rehm of Nebraska.
Selecting and hiring a good lawyer is critical in dealing with a legal problem. Lawyers are increasingly limiting the types of cases handled in an effort to provided better representation. The Internet is a common starting point for consumers to locate and select lawyers who have the right kind of knowledge and experience for their problem. I recommend the following steps for selecting a lawyer.
1. Check with family, friends, neighbors, or others whom you trust and respect to learn if they know of a lawyer or law firm who they would recommend for the kind of problem you are dealing with. This approach is the traditional way to find a professional and often leads to a good attorney-client relationship with satisfactory results.
2. Consult a general-practice lawyer you know and ask for recommendations. This approach gives you the advantage of having someone who knows area lawyers help you find the right mixture of knowledge and expertise.
3. Internet searches will turn up a large variety of lawyers who handle the kind of problem you are experiencing. Read several of the websites with a careful eye for the following:
a. Is the firm A-rated by the leading peer-rating organization Martindale and Hubbell? The ratings are very good indicators of how the firm is regarded because they come from judges and other lawyers who work with the firm.
b. Do the members of the firm appear to be actively involved in organizations dealing with your kind of problem? Are the lawyers officers or board members of such groups? Have the lawyers been speakers at seminars? This kind of activity shows the lawyers are interested in improving and protecting the law for people with your kind of problem and respected by other lawyers and judges. Here are some examples of law organizations. For employment matters, see the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) (please link to www.nela.org). For workers’ compensation organizations, see the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group (link to www.wilg.org). For other personal-injury matters, see the American Association for Justice (link to www.justice.org). For general trial-attorney needs, see the American Board of Trial Advocates (link to www.abota.org).
c. Do the lawyers from a firm belong to any organizations indicating that they have been honored or selected for membership based on knowledge and experience?
d. Do the lawyers appear to belong the bar associations in their area? Have they served on any committees, sections, or governing bodies?
4. Go to www.martindale.com and use the lawyer search. You can search for lawyers by city, state, and specialty. Lawyers are rated as follows. AV® Preeminent™ is the highest rating, followed by BV® Distinguished™ then Distinguished. We recommend only A-rated lawyers if they are available. One way to get the best of the best is to limit the search by checking the box “Featured Peer Review Rated.” The website is very user friendly.
5. Contact the lawyer or lawyers you focus on, and talk to the lawyer. Learn how the lawyer interacts with clients. The following are some questions that might be helpful: Do you feel comfortable talking with the lawyer? Are they Internet users? Will you have a specific team of people working with you? How do they charge? Can you have Skype conferences or do they have other face-to-face conferencing options through the Internet? Will retainer documents be required and available for review before an appointment?
These suggestions provide a framework on how to locate and evaluate an attorney to help you. The references we refer to are industry standards, so they not subject to as much manipulation as other online approaches, such as reviews, testimonials, or video recommendations on lawyers’ websites.