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How to Find a Good LawyerPosted August 18, 2017
By Jonathan A. Karon
The best way to find a good lawyer is to ask a lawyer you know and trust, who practices a different specialty, for a referral. Most lawyers have a network of contacts and generally know or can find out who the respected attorneys are in other areas of practice. I regularly get requests from friends and clients for help finding someone who can help them with a legal problem other than a personal injury or litigation matter. I’m only too happy to help. Sometimes people need help finding a personal injury attorney in another part of the country and most of the time I can help with that as well. I’m not alone in this. Attorneys usually want you to come to them if you’re looking for an attorney. This is not entirely altruistic. It is possible that they or someone in their office actually does handle what you need help with.
What if you don’t know a lawyer? Just as you might ask your friends if they know a good auto mechanic or dentist or doctor, you can ask them if they know a good attorney. If your friend suggests someone who helped them, ask what kind of legal matter it was. Many areas of law are increasingly specialized. Just as Red Sox fans wouldn’t want Big Papi to pitch, a great real estate lawyer probably wouldn’t be the person to represent you in a complex products liability case. But if your friend knows a good lawyer in any area of law, they can ask that lawyer for a referral to the type of lawyer you need.
If you and your friends don’t know any good lawyers, many bar associations have lawyer referral services. For example, the Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) has a state wide lawyer referral service which you can call or go on-line for a referral to a lawyer in a particular specialty. You will generally be entitled to a half hour consultation for $25. After that, if you want to retain the lawyer they can charge you their customary fee. The MBA lawyer referral website is at http://www.masslawhelp.com/
Obviously, you can look for a lawyer on-line. Remember though that just because a law firm is at the top of your Google search results doesn’t mean that they are the best attorneys for you. These days law firms spend a lot of time and effort on SEO (search engine optimization) because marketers report that most prospective clients only look at the first three Google search hits. If you’re looking for an attorney who has spent a lot of money on gaming a search algorithm then you can limit yourself to the first hits. If you’re looking for a good attorney, however, you should look farther, and even past page one.
Once you have the name of a lawyer you should do some research on their background. Go to their website. Google them and look at on-line client reviews. Look at some independent lawyer information websites. Two of the most useful of these are Avvo® http://www.avvo.com and Super Lawyers® http://www.superlawyers.com/
Both these sites provide information and ratings of attorneys. Do keep in mind that both Avvo® and Super Lawyers® make money by selling advertising to lawyers (although attorney ratings are unrelated to whether someone advertises the sites generate revenue by selling advertising to attorneys with high ratings) and that just like any other business, a law firm’s on-line profile can be manipulated and its on-line review “massaged”. So, although this research is useful and necessary, use the same amount of skepticism you would in researching any other type of business.
The last step, if you have found an attorney you think can help you, is to meet with them to determine if they are someone you can work with. The practice of law is about a lot more than just being able to recall the holdings of cases and the language of statutes. It usually requires providing practical advise on how to solve a problem or achieve a certain result. Some attorneys may technically be very good, but they may not have the type of personality that works best with you. Most personal injury attorneys will not charge you for an initial meeting to determine if they are a good fit for your case. You should never be embarrassed to ask if there is a charge for an initial meeting and attorneys in other areas of practice frequently don’t charge for the first meeting. Keep in mind that it is a two way street, of course, and the lawyer is not required to agree to represent you, just because they met with you. Also, if there is no charge for the initial meeting, don’t expect the lawyer to do extensive research or completely solve your problem at that time. Like you, the attorney is trying to make sure they are a good fit for your matter.
I should add some information on attorney advertising. Many of the lawyers who advertise on television do not actually handle the cases themselves. Instead, they simply refer the cases to other attorneys in exchange for a fee up front or a portion of any legal fee eventually earned. So, if you find an attorney through a t.v. ad you should find out if they will be handling the case themselves or referring it out to another firm. Once you know who would actually be handling your case, it is even more important to try to research their background, since you
don’t have a personal recommendation to go on.
Finding a good attorney can be hard and my profession doesn’t make it any easier. But the above steps will hopefully help you find the right attorney.
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