Once you have found several different options for a potential lawyer, you will want to evaluate which of them fits your needs and preferences. In most regions and practice areas, lawyers offer a free initial consultation to prospective clients. This is a good way to assess an attorney’s strengths and weaknesses. You can make notes during the conversation to help you compare an attorney to others.
Your lawyer should have handled many cases similar to yours, involving similar issues, claims, and types of parties. It is fine and sometimes helpful if they have represented parties that would typically be adverse to you. For example, if you are a tenant suing a landlord, you may benefit from hiring an attorney who has occasionally represented landlords and understands the other side’s strategies. For another example, if you are an accident victim bringing a claim against a large insurance company, you may find it helpful to have an attorney who previously worked for an insurer and has insights into how they handle claims.
However, you should not take this to an extreme and hire a lawyer who usually represents the other side. While they may assure you that they will provide you with zealous advocacy, they likely have a very different worldview from you, and this may undermine your relationship over time.
Education and Credentials
You can check out your lawyer’s resume online even before meeting them. Going to the best possible law school is not necessarily the top priority, and a lawyer who was at the top of their class may or may not be the best advocate. Still, you should be confident in the quality of their education. You should look at the attorney’s reviews, their track record of getting results for clients, and any awards or recognition that they have received for their work. Some lawyers get involved in their community, possibly by providing free legal aid or contributing to community organizations. This can indicate that someone is a compassionate advocate who treats clients well.
Communication Skills and Personality
You should find out at the initial consultation what to expect from your potential attorney in terms of communicating with you. Your advocate should have a prompt response time and have an open line of contact in case you have questions. While they are probably representing several clients at the same time, you have a right to expect careful attention to your case.
You should feel comfortable talking to your lawyer. Even if they have excellent credentials, they may not be the right choice for you if your personalities clash. While you do not need to be close friends with your lawyer, you will need to have a smooth rapport with them for the relationship to be successful.
Attorney fees can mount quickly, especially if you are retaining a lawyer for more than a single, limited matter. You should have a candid discussion with your potential attorney about what you can pay and what they will provide for those fees. Some attorneys offer flexible fee agreements that are tailored to a client’s income. If the lawyer does not have a clear explanation of how fees work or tries to avoid the issue, this may be a red flag.
You should check the records of your state bar association or any other organization that handles attorney disciplinary matters. Your attorney should not be currently suspended from practice or have a long record of disciplinary actions. If there is one incident on their record, and it seems minor, you may still want to consider that attorney. You can ask them to explain what happened and then decide if their explanation satisfies you enough to trust them.
Many lawyers have paralegals and administrative assistants helping them run their office and manage their files. This can help them handle cases more efficiently and should not necessarily be seen as a disadvantage. However, you want to make sure that your attorney will be handling your case, or at least you should know who is doing which tasks for you.
Some lawyers refer cases to other lawyers who may be more knowledgeable in a certain specialty or have more openings in their workload. If this happens, you should not just trust the referring lawyer to do the right thing for you. Instead, you should follow up with the lawyer who will actually be representing you. You need to have just as strong a relationship with them as you did with the original lawyer.