How to Find a Lawyer: Interview Questions to Ask
Whether it’s for a messy divorce, a minor traffic accident, or a medical malpractice issue, most people – at some point in their lives – will need a lawyer. Often the need arises quickly and can take us by surprise. If you’re wondering how to find a lawyer, and stuck at the searching for a lawyer phase, here are some tips to help you find one to suit you, your budget, and your legal situation.
How to find a Lawyer
Unless you live in Rendville, OH (population: 29), your problem in finding a lawyer is probably going to be an excess, rather than a lack, of options. Google “lawyer” for your local area and you’re likely to come up with hundreds of listings. How do you narrow down these numbers to just a few good matches for your needs?
An excellent place to start is the website of the American Bar Association. In the “Public Resources” section, you’ll find a state-by-state guide to legal services including Legal Aid. These services can help you figure out how to find a lawyer, and advise you on what type of lawyer you need, (and let you know if you even need a lawyer at all).
An additional way to track down lawyers is to use personal connections. Typing “Hey, anyone know a good criminal defense attorney?” into Facebook might not be the best idea, but contacting trusted family or colleagues could result in useful referrals.
This strategy worked for Tony, a retired 75-year-old farmer, who needed a lawyer when his marriage ended. “I was lucky to live in a small city,” he said. “A friend who worked in real estate knew most of the lawyers in town. He recommended a few different people; I checked them out, and I found a good one in the end.”
If you don’t have personal connections to call on, online specialist review sites such as Avvo, Super Lawyers, and Lawyerratingz can be just as useful. These niche review sites have thousands of reviews for lawyers across the USA; one of the largest sites, Lawyerratingz, has reviews for over 70,000 lawyers.
Once you’ve made a few phone calls and looked at some online reviews, you should have a shortlist of several lawyers. One final task is to go to your State Bar Association website and check that each lawyer is licensed to practice in your state.
Preparing to Interview your Lawyer Candidates
Scheduling consultations with a few different lawyers on your shortlist is a good way to get a feel for which lawyer would suit you best. With each interview, you’ll gather valuable information on your legal options, as well as different fee structures and communication styles. When you ring the lawyer’s office, explain that you’d like to book an initial appointment. Make sure to clarify what the fees will be, as well as the purpose of the appointment.
Next, ask yourself if you’d feel more supported at the meeting if you had a friend, colleague, or family member with you. Legal problems can be emotionally distressing; the thought of stepping into a lawyer’s office – perhaps for the first time in your life – may feel overwhelming. For these reasons, bringing a support person, (preferably someone who can provide an objective viewpoint on your meeting), can be helpful.
Before your appointment, make a list of questions you’d like to ask your lawyer. These questions can be about your specific case, but also about more general issues.
Some possible questions are:
- What experience do you have with situations like mine?
- What ideas do you have about how you would handle my case
- Do I have any alternatives in resolving this matter?
- Will I be meeting and working with you directly or will I primarily interact with someone else?
- Can you provide written information about your fee structure?
- What local, state and national organizations are you a member of?
- Can I get a references from a previous clients?
It’s a good idea to print out your final list of questions, so that you can go through the points one by one during your appointment. You’ll also need to bring along any documents you have which may help the lawyer understand your legal situation (such as contracts, wills, or a written timeline of events).
After you’ve met with one or two lawyers, you should be feeling more confident and informed about your options, and ready to choose the best lawyer for you. As Tony, the farmer who struggled with how to find a lawyer, said, “Once I decided on my lawyer, it was like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. I felt I had someone who I could trust to really guide me through the whole court process.”