How to Find a Lawyer in 3 Easy Steps

in User Help Last updated May 08, 2018
legal issues cause stress, picking a good attorney can reduce that stress

Going to court can be a stressful time for many.

You need a lawyer you can be confident in.

Some say all lawyers are the same.

If only that were true…

If you want to find a great attorney for your situation, you need to put some thought into who you hire.

Otherwise you may not get the results you desire and deserve!

Stay with me and I will show you 3 steps to finding the right lawyer for your situation.

Let's begin...

#1 Create a List of Potential Lawyers Based on Your Issue.

1st step in choosing a lawyer is  making a list of potential lawyers

You are in a legal situation and need to hire a lawyer to support your case. The first step is to decide what type of law your case falls in.

With so many practice areas of law, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and lost on where to start looking.

First, let's determine what type of lawyer you need.

Below is a list of the major practice areas of law and what each practice area covers.

Now, determine what area of law your issue fits within.

Bankruptcy and Debt Law: If you are in debt, a bankruptcy lawyer can help you file and navigate through bankruptcy.

Business Law: Business lawyers can assist with discrimination cases, employee complaints, and much more.

Civil Law: Civil lawyers are experts in defending your civil rights and liberties if they have been violated.

Consumer Law: Product safety and false advertising are two of the many issues that consumer lawyers can help their clients with.

Corporate Law: Corporate lawyers focus on people, businesses, and organizations.

Criminal Law: A criminal lawyer can represent you for anything from a petty theft to federal crime.

Divorce and Family Law: These lawyers have expertise in all issues related to the family. This includes divorce, alimony, and adoption, to name a few. 

Education Law: Education lawyers uphold the standards of schools and rights of the students who attend them.

Elder Law: Elder lawyers represent cases of elder abuse and neglect, federal benefits, and estate planning.

Employment and Labor Law: Work should be a positive environment for all. If it falls drastically short, hire an employment lawyer to help.

Entertainment Law: Entertainment lawyers represent their high-profile clients with intellectual property rights, contracts, litigation, and securities.

Environmental Law: Environmental lawyers work to protect the environment and all those affected by it. 

Estate Law: Wills, trusts, health care directives, financial power of attorney, and estate planning are the main topics estate lawyers work with.

Health Care Law: Health care lawyers are experts in working with the United States Welfare System, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Immigration Law: Immigration lawyers can assist you with asylum, green cards, visa, naturalization, and citizenship.

Military and Veterans Law: You've served our country, now let a military and veterans lawyer serve you.

Personal Injury and Accident Law: A personal injury lawyer will fight so you can receive a settlement or compensation after your injury or accident.

Real Estate Law: Being a homeowner or landlord comes with a lot of responsibility, and with that responsibility comes complications at times. Get a real estate lawyer on your side.

Social Security and Disability Law: Are you having trouble accessing social security benefits or receiving disability? A social security lawyer can help.

Deciding between practice areas.

Sometimes a legal issue can apply to multiple practice areas. In this case, it would be beneficial to ask for advice from individuals you trust. This could include family members, friends, or even a lawyer you know personally!

For example, if you are being discriminated against at your workplace, you could hire an Employment and Labor Lawyer or a Business Lawyer. Each will provide unique insight and expertise, but which is best for your situation?

The choice is yours!

There is not a wrong answer here. During consultations you may get a better idea of which type of lawyer will work better for your situation. 

More on consultations later.

Now that you have figured out the practice area that matches your situation, let's determine the type of lawyer you need.

determine type of lawyer you need such as a small firm in local area

Determine the Type of Lawyer Best for Your Case.

Like every case, every individual is different. What has worked for someone else may not work for you. Here are some important questions to consider:

1. Would you prefer to work with a lawyer from a small or large firm?

There are advantages to working with a small or large law firm. A small firm can offer flexible schedules, a relaxed environment, and more contact with your lawyer. A large firm regularly works with a diverse client base, has a large support staff, and many reviews from previous clients to read through.

2. Would you like to work with a lawyer in your local area?

Hiring with a local lawyer can mean better communication. They may be able to provide you with additional resources in your area too. There are some situations where hiring a lawyer in your area is not completely necessary. If you need an estate or criminal lawyer, for instance, you should not feel limited to hiring one from your local area.

3. Depending on the difficulty of your case, how significant is it that your lawyer has years of experience?

A lawyer with years of experience is qualified and used to working with clients on a regular basis. Ideally, they will know the law very well and will likely cost more than a lawyer with less experience. A newly licensed lawyer has not worked with as many clients, but they could offer fresh perspectives since they have recently graduated from law school. They will also cost less.

Outline what YOU want in a lawyer so that you can search for precisely what you need. 

So, let’s start finding lawyers for your situation.

Search Review Sites, Ask Friends & Family, and Research Bar Associations to Find Potential Lawyers.

Be prepared to take make a list of your top contenders. Write down their names and why they stuck out to you, in case you forget later.

Also make sure to jot down important information you found about them online and any immediate concerns you will want to address when you meet with them.

There are amazing resources to help you find exactly who you want to take your case.

Let's discuss these so you know where to start your search.

Reviews Give Strong Indication of Lawyers Ability and Focus.

use review sites to help find good lawyers

Here’s the point. 

If they have been successful with other similar cases, chances are they will be helpful with yours too. 

Use an attorney review site, such as firmdoor.com, to find reputable lawyers in your location of need. These sites will provide you with information on attorneys and law firms and provide reviews from past clients.

Make a list of your top contenders. 

Read reviews on various websites and look for professionals who offer free consultations.

Most lawyers offer a free or low-cost consultation to their potential clients. We encourage you to use this opportunity to your advantage. 

Lawyers will want to meet with you prior to taking your case too.

Ask Friends & Family for Recommendations.

Ask friends and family for recommendations

You may also consider asking for recommendations from your friends and family. Have they used lawyers from your list, or had a great experience with someone else?

Make sure to ask meaningful questions, such as:

  • What was the case about?
  • Did the case go in their favor?
  • Where they the plaintiff or defendant?
  • How did they learn about them?
  • What about the lawyer did they like? Didn't like?

Check State and Local Bar Associations

This step often gets overlooked but it is SO important.

You want your lawyer to be practicing in an ethically and legally responsible way. On Bar Association websites, you can:

  1. Check your potential lawyers' accreditations
  2. Look at their history of misconduct
  3. Ensure their license is active

These questions sound important, right?

These are all things you'll want to know before you decide which lawyers on your list you want to make consultations with. It helps narrow your search so you can make the most educated decision possible.

Checking the lawyer’s credentials will help give you piece of mind during consultations so you can focus on more important topics. 

Now let’s start contacting your list of potential lawyers.

#2 Contact and Setup Consultations with Potential Lawyers to get a Better Understanding of How They Will Help Your Case.

Ready?

Now is the time to set up consultation appointments.

Consultations are the time to ask questions to solidify opinions about your top lawyers. You should feel confident in your final choice and have the information you need before making a final decision.

Know what to expect from a Consultation.

Ensure you are aware if you will be charged for the consultation. Your lawyer should tell you when you schedule.

If they don't, you may reconsider following through with the interview.

Why does this matter?

You are hiring a lawyer to fight for YOU and honesty is a quality you will want your lawyer to have! Their transparency will be crucial for feeling more at ease during the legal process.

At a consultation, you'll have the chance to ask lawyers important questions before you decide to hire them.

A great lawyer will answer as many questions as you have... and truthfully!

Have a list of questions ready.

Make a list of questions to ask lawyer

Before you go to any consultations, write down a list of questions you want to ask. Generally, there are questions you should ask no matter which practice area your lawyer focuses on.

Here are examples:

  • What is the realistic outcome for my case?
  • How long have you been practicing law?
    (should already know this from previous research, but if not ask now)
  • How often do you work with clients in my situation?
  • What is your communication style with clients?
  • What will your fees and expenses be?
  • What will my role be in the process?
  • Have you ever been accused or sanctioned for misconduct? 
    (should already know this from previous research, but if not ask now)
  • Do you have the time to dedicate to my case?
  • What are your fees?
  • And any other questions you can think of!

If you have any other questions you want to ask, write those down too! You don't want to forget to inquire about anything you need to know before you decide.

Check this out, we have added a bonus section at the end of this article for questions to ask in specific practice areas. 

Gather important documents beforehand.

bring documents to consultations with lawyers

Bring any documents that are applicable to your case to your consultation. These will differ between practice areas.

For example, if you are hiring a lawyer for a divorce case, you will want to bring paychecks, prenuptial agreement, children's birth certificates, criminal record, and any evidence that can be used against you to the consultation.

The lawyer will want to understand your background so they can better prepare for your case. This is because the opposing party will be ready to combat anything that decreases your chance of winning the case.

Finally, and most importantly, go to the consultations and take notes.

Go to meetings setup for consultation with attorney

Appointments for the various lawyers could be spread out over weeks. So, take good notes!

Later you will want to remember your thoughts, pros, cons, and the answers to each question you ask at the consultation. Take notes to help with making your decision later.

This will be very important when selecting a lawyer to use.

It's time for the final step.

#3 Select a Lawyer from Your List.

Odds are, you did not expect to have to hire a lawyer.

Considering lawyers' fees, court costs, and additional charges can be intimidating, especially if you did not plan for this situation to happen.

Each lawyer has different costs for services, and you want to be aware of these when you leave each consultation appointment.

Remember: Make sure your lawyer is upfront about costs so you can budget for services.

understanding legal fees

Consider costs.

Here are some average costs for services lawyers provide:

  • Cost of a will: $375
  • Estates - Single: $1,000, Married: $1,500
  • Experience hourly costs - Junior lawyer in rural area: $150, Senior lawyer in booming metropolis: $1,000
  • Incorporating a start-up business: $2,000-$5,000

As you can see, there are ranges for costs based on region, experience, and depth of services needed. Depending on where you live, the costs could be exponentially higher or lower.

That brings us to...

What if you can't afford a lawyer?

DUI test by cop, could seek legal assistance

Consider this situation: You are a college student at a party and have a few drinks. You get behind the wheel and less than a mile from home, you are pulled over for swerving. You are given a breathalyzer and it reads 0.06%. Yikes. 

What are you going to do?

You are working part time, but your paycheck is not nearly enough to pay for a lawyer.

As you can imagine, there are MANY scenarios where this problem could arise.

There is a solution: a pro bono lawyer.

Pro bono is short for the Latin phrase pro bono publico, meaning "for the public good". Lawyers who practice this offer free services to their pro bono clients.

The Miranda Rights states "You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you."

Most lawyers set aside time to devote to pro bono services to help those who cannot afford a lawyer. A law student may also be called in to serve your case.

If you interested in pro bono services, contact your top lawyers and ask if they are currently offering them.

Understand the various fees charged by most lawyers.

understand the typical fees charged by attorneys

Lawyers typically use one of three ways to charge for their services: hourly rates, contingency fees, and flat fees.

Hourly rates: This is when lawyers charge on the basis of time they've spent working on your case.

Contingency fees: You may see a slogan on a law firm's website that reads, "we don't get paid unless we win your case!" This is how a contingency fee works. Initially, there are little to no costs to you. If your case wins, your lawyer will receive a percentage of your earnings. Your lawyer does not receive a fee if you lose your case. This situation is especially helpful if you don't have much money to contribute upfront to pay a lawyer.

Flat fees: These are usually presented if your case is relatively easy. For example, estate lawyers charge flat fees for writing a will since an uncomplicated one only takes about an hour to create.

In addition, some lawyers require a retainer fee before they start working on your case. This is a down payment. Make sure you are aware if your lawyer wants this and how much they ask for.

These fees can be negotiated before a contract is written up. Never agree to a contract unless you are 100% comfortable with it!

It all comes down to this.

choose your lawyer, sign contract

You have done your research, attended consultations, and made a choice. Now, you will want to act quickly because lawyers' schedules fill up fast.

Call or meet with your top choice lawyer and secure a contract. Sign it, and be prepared to pay a retainer fee if necessary.

Then, you will have a qualified lawyer on your side.

So, what are you waiting for?

bonus section, questions for specific practice areas

Special Considerations in Specific Practice Areas

This bonus section covers some specific tips to consider when trying to find lawyers in certain practice areas.

Let's dig a little deeper...

Tips for Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer

if you need a personal injury lawyer, here are some specific tips that can be used in addition to our general guide.

Learn about their Experience as a Personal Injury Lawyer

  • What percentage of their cases have been personal injury?
  • Do they usually represent plaintiffs or defendants?

Settlement Goals

A possible outcome from a personal injury case is a settlement. Ask your lawyer what they believe your case could bring if it is settled.

Ambulance Chasing is Illegal in Most of the United States, but it Still Happens.

If you are in an accident and get a call, letter, or visit... beware. Do your research first; don't just hire the first lawyer.

Additional Questions to Ask your Potential Personal Injury Lawyer:

  • How many personal injury cases have you taken to trial?
  • How long does it usually take to settle the case?
  • What is my case worth?
  • Do you typically represent those who have been injured or those who are being sued?

Tips for Finding an Adoption Lawyer

Adoption is the process of transferring legal rights of a child to someone else. If you are planning on adopting a child, you may consider hiring an adoption lawyer. This can ensure that you are making the best decisions possible for the child.

Adoption Agency vs. Adoption Lawyer

If you are adopting through an agency, hiring a lawyer may not be necessary. However, if you are adopting privately, a lawyer could help.

Consider Time

Adoptions can take years to complete, and usually include extensive waiting periods between steps. So, whether you're hiring a lawyer for nine months or three years, you'll want to work with a professional who you have a good working relationship with. 

Additional Questions to Ask your Potential Adoption Lawyer:

  • Do you work with open adoptions, private adoptions, or both?
  • How long have you been representing adoption cases?
  • Should I prepare to pay for the expectant's mother lawyer as well?
  • How will I be updated about my case?

Tips for Finding a Special Education Lawyer

If you are a parent and your child is receiving special education services at their school, there are various situations that could call for a lawyer's expertise. If your child's services are about to end, they have repeatedly not met their annual goals, or their school is trying to place them out of district, you may want to look into hiring a lawyer. Listed below are a few tips for hiring a special education lawyer to support your child's needs.

Parental Involvement

If you are a parent who is hiring a lawyer on behalf of your child, you will understandably want to be involved in the case. You want to ensure your child is receiving their right to an excellent education. Talk with your lawyer about how much you want to be a part of the case, and how they usually work with parents.

Special Education Lawyer or Advocate?

You may have heard both terms before, but which is better for your situation? As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to hiring either professional. Advocates are individuals who fight for the rights of special education students, but do not have law degrees. They are usually cheaper, but may not be taken as seriously as a lawyer in some courts. Special education lawyers specialize in education law, and are usually more expensive.  They are well-versed in educations laws 

Additional Questions to Ask Your Potential Special Education Lawyer:

  • How can I expect to be involved in the case?
  • Have you

Tips for Finding an Employment Lawyer

Employment lawyers represents individuals who are having issues with their employers, or employees who are having issues with employees. Either way, a lawyer will provide legal support and help you resolve problems in the workplace.

If You are the Employer...

Are you being sued by your employee? You will definitely need to hire a lawyer. Make sure you bring any applicable documents to your consultations and meetings. Help your employment lawyer understand the details of you case so they can defend you in court.

If You are the Employee...

Have you been wrongfully terminated, harassed, or discriminated against at work? You may have grounds to sue and an employment lawyer can help. Your workplace should be a safe environment where each employee feels comfortable.

Additional Questions to Ask Your Potential Employment Lawyer:

  • What is the likely result of my case?
  • How many similar cases have you handled? What were their outcomes?
  • Do you usually represent employees or employers?
  • Approximately how long will it take to resolve my case?

Tips for Finding a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Filing for bankruptcy is a stressful experience. Whether you are faced with a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, you are going to want to hire a lawyer who has helped others before you. 

Do Type of Bankruptcy Do I Need to File?

  • Chapter 7: The is the most commonly filed form of bankruptcy. It is a complete liquidation, that allows the individual to start over.
  • Chapter 9: This type of bankruptcy is reserve for municipalities. This could include schools, cities, counties, and more.
  • Chapter 11: Business who want to continue paying off their creditors while keeping their operations running can file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  • Chapter 12: This bankruptcy is similar to Chapter 11 and 13 cases, but are applied to farmers. Farmers work out a payment plan to pay creditors while maintaining operations on their farm.
  • Chapter 13: This type of case allows the person in debt to pay off creditors with a structured payment plan. It helps them keep their assets, such as their home and savings.

Think About Hiring a Private Lawyer

There are benefits to hiring a local lawyer to represent your bankruptcy case. Bankruptcies can be very involved and intense processes, and you will want a lawyer who can support you. If you hire a lawyer from a large firm, you may not have the opportunity to speak with your lawyer directly. In this type of case, it would be important to have regular contact with your lawyer.

Additional Questions to Ask Your Potential Bankruptcy Lawyer:

  • How much money and assets will I lose if I file for bankruptcy?
  • How long will it take to prepare my bankruptcy petition?
  • How much could I expect to pay if I am on a payment plan?
  • What are my risks?

Tips for Finding an Immigration Lawyer

The United States has been fondly known as "the melting pot" of the world. Immigrants have and continue to bring new ideas and diversity to our great nation. For many decades, contrasting opinions have made it difficult for some immigrants to enter the country. It is a process that takes many years and often needs legal support to complete.

Make Sure They are a Licensed Immigration Lawyer

Some officials such as notaries, visa consultants, and petition preparers will try to persuade foreigners that they can handle their cases. Only trust a practicing and experienced lawyer.

Know When to Hire a Lawyer

Have you...

  • entered the United States without proper inspection?
  • been in the process of deportation or removal?
  • failed to leave the United States before your visa expired?
  • been apprehended by Customs and Border Protection?
  • committed a misdemeanor or criminal offense?

If any of these scenarios apply to you, it's time to look for a lawyer to handle your case.

Additional Questions to Ask your Potential Immigration Lawyer:

  • Are you a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)?
  • How long have you been practicing immigration law?
  • Are you fluent in my native language? (If needed)
  • Have you ever worked with another client who had the same situation?

Tips for Finding a DUI/DWI Lawyer

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charges are serious. Listed below are tips for finding the right lawyer to represent your criminal case.

Know What's at Stake

DUI/DWI cases are faced with a lot of charges. They are exacerbated if there was an accident or injury involved.

You need an lawyer who is experienced and prepared to combat possible jail time, license relation, and heavy financial penalties.

Local Lawyers Know Best

Aim to hire an lawyer who practices in your state and specific county. That ensures they know the local and state laws to serve you better.

Chances are, they're acquainted with police offices and law enforcement officials in the area too.

Second or Third Offense?

It's time to hire a lawyer.

Additional Questions to Ask your Potential DUI/DWI Lawyer:

  •  How long have you been serving DUI/DWI clients since you started practicing?
  • What percentage of your caseload is DUI/DWI cases?
  • Is a plea agreement possible in my case?
  • Which factors work for and against my case?

Tips for Finding an Elder Lawyer

Elder law professionals handle wills, estate planning, power of attorney, issues regarding elder abuse, and more. If you are looking to hire an elder lawyer for yourself or for a loved one, here are some tips on how to find the best fit.

It's Never Too Early to Plan.

Today, people are tending to their estates and wills early than ever before. It is important to have your wishes documented. This way, your assets don't belong to the state after your passing. You can ensure that your valuables are taken care of the way you prefer.

Know Which Documents are Required for Your State.

These are different in each state. Some of the documents include a living will, estate, and financial power of attorney. Even if they aren't all required, it is still a good idea to consider completing them as they could be beneficial for you and your loved ones.

Additional Questions to Ask Your Potential Elder Lawyer:

  • Does this firm handle all areas of elder law?
  • How familiar are you with Medicare and Medicaid?
  • How do I keep my loved ones from probate court?
  • When is the best time to write a will?
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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established. Content Copyright 2018. Information contained herein has been obtained from various sources, including legal textbooks, personal opinion, research on the internet and other locations. Information, content, layout and style are believed to be from public domain sources and not a conflict with intellectual property of others. Site design is from a template and modifications of a template. Attorneys not certified as specialist in any area of law.

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