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How To Pick an Attorney

There are a lot of attorneys out there, so how do you pick the best attorney for your needs? Here are some key points to keep in mind and some important questions you should be asking.

First, does the attorney have sufficient experience to handle the issue that you are dealing with?

Once an attorney has a bar card, he or she can practice in any area of law they want. You will often find attorneys who do personal injury and criminal law and wills and trusts and family law. Basically, they will do anything. An attorney that works in too many different practice areas will be unlikely to be current on the latest issues that might be important to achieving the outcome that you are hoping for.  You want to be sure that the attorney you are considering has a very strong focus on the area of your concern.  Also, experience really does count – especially in criminal defense.  How to deal with difficult judges, aggressive prosecutors and consistently changing law is often a function of familiarity – having been in the trenches for an extended period of time.  Pick an attorney who has a clear focus on the issues that are important to you.

Second, does the lawyer or their firm have the time and capacity to handle your case.  Do they have the manpower and resources to handle your matter?  In other words, does that attorney take every case that walks through the door, or does the firm manage their case load to assure that they can give the case the attention that it needs.

Third, what is their reputation in the legal community.  There are two types of reputation to consider.  One is reviews from the public.  These are the reviews one sees on yelp, google or other similar sites. Keep in mind that most of these reviews are going to come from clients.  Especially in criminal law, sometimes the outcome is not what the client had hoped for – through no fault of the attorney.  But the result is a bad review and the client blaming the lawyer.  It is important to keep in mind that some clients or their family are just blaming the attorney rather than taking responsibility for their actions.

The second type of reviews come from the legal community itself.  Sites like Best Attorneys in America and Super Lawyers are the result of the attorney’s reputation among other attorneys.  An lawyer listed on the Best Attorneys in America is based upon the opinion of other attorneys and their view that the lawyer is among the top in their field.  These reviews tend to be a more accurate reflection on the skill level of the attorney.  For example, a lawyer listed in the Best Attorneys in America is considered to be in the top 1% in their practice area in the country.

A fourth consideration is how does the attorney bill.  In hiring an attorney, understand that you really do get what you pay for.  An attorney who is very inexpensive or otherwise competing based on price generally is going to have to have a very high case load in order to cover their overhead.  You really do want an attorney who is running a successful business and is not living paycheck to paycheck.  You want someone who is not worried about paying the rent so they can be focused on your case.

It is completely appropriate for you to ask how the attorney bills, how many cases do they handle at any given time and what kind of cost can you expect during the course of your case.  For example, does you attorney expect to have to hire experts and/or investigators and how much will you be paying for it?  Can they give you an estimate of how much time they would expect your case to take and can they estimate the final bill. 

Another consideration is whether the attorney has written any books or blogs on the subject matter.  Published authors tend to be more knowledgeable because they had to really study the subject to truly understand it.

In my view, it is important to actually meet with your attorney face to face.  Hiring an attorney over the phone can be convenient but looking the person in the eye is important. In the end, it is imperative that you trust your lawyer.  You are paying for their advice.  If you don’t follow their counsel, you are wasting your money and likely are going to undermine your entire case.

In the final analysis, there are many factors to consider when hiring an attorney, especially if you are charged with a serious offense.  After looking at their reputation and skill level you have to determine – do you trust this person.  Once you find someone you trust you are in the right place.

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