Lawyers are no different than other people. There are good ones and bad ones just like there are good cooks and bad cooks. You can tell a bad cook by the taste of the food…how can you tell a bad lawyer? You can’t taste what the lawyer does…with some lawyers you can’t even see what they do…
A lawyer sells skill, experience, knowledge, and time. The lawyer has knowledge from training in law school, from reading about changes in the law, and from experience as a lawyer. Unfortunately, there is no sure way to tell if the lawyer you choose is competent.
One way to select a lawyer is by recommendation of a satisfied client. Be careful though, since no two cases are the same, even if your friend’s case was successful, it is no guarantee that your case will be successful. Also, lawyers have different personalities. The lawyer who works well with your friend may not get along with you. A satisfied client might be a good way for you to know that the lawyer has some knowledge and experience in the particular area of law that you need help with.
Another way to choose a lawyer is by reading advertisements, articles, an Internet Web site, or other information about a lawyer or written by the lawyer. In this way you can find out what areas of the law the lawyer has experience in. If the lawyer has written books or articles, you may want to read them to see how the lawyer discusses situations similar to yours. You might also contact a bar association to ask for a referral to a lawyer. Make sure the lawyer is experienced.
Here is a handy checklist of basic questions to ask before you hire a lawyer:
# What is your experience in this field?
# Have you handled matters like mine?
# What are the possible outcomes of my case?
# What are my alternatives in resolving the matter?
# Approximately how long will it take to resolve?
# Do you recommend mediation or arbitration?
# What are your rates and how often will you bill me?
# What is a ballpark figure for the total bill, including fees and expenses?
# How will you keep me informed of progress?
# What kind of approach will you take to resolve the matter – aggressive and unyielding, or will you be more inclined to reach a reasonable settlement?
# Who else in the office will be working on my case?
# Can junior attorneys or paralegals in the office handle some of the substantive legal work at a lower rate?
Make sure the person in charge of the office is a lawyer. Notaries, consultants, or others who are not licensed as a lawyer will sometimes pretend to be a lawyer. If you are in the office, look for the lawyer’s certificate on the wall. Since some licensed lawyers do not display their certificates, you can ask if the person is a lawyer. Look at the business card from the office. See if it says that the person is a lawyer or attorney.
If you are unhappy with your lawyer, you can change and go to another lawyer asking to have your case transferred. This may not be a good idea unless you are very unhappy since changing lawyers will usually cost additional fees and may increase the time needed finish a case