Selecting an Attorney

With thousands of attorneys, hundreds of pages of legal ads, and dozens of attorney referral search engines, finding the right attorney for you may seem overwhelming. As busy as you are, finding an attorney is either not on or at the bottom of your list of things to do. Another problem that arises is that attorneys are often perceived as sue happy deal killers who create contention rather than resolve the problem. Nevertheless, and perhaps as a necessary evil, everyone at some time will want, need or should have an attorney. This article provides a basic outline of considerations for you when selecting an attorney.

Attorneys are like medical doctors with specialists and general practitioners. While some areas of law are far too complicated for the casual practitioner, other areas can be competently handled by anyone licensed to practice law. Most attorneys, however, tend to limit their practice areas to 2 or 3 areas of law. This allows them to provide consistent cost efficient service to their clients. Always inquire what areas of law an attorney practices in.

There are three general reasons why you may want, need or should have an attorney: (1) you have a specific one time need such as a lawsuit, a car accident, an arrest; (2) you need ongoing legal counsel for your business or personal estate; or (3) you have some questions about what you think may be legal matters. All three are valid reasons to seek an attorney.

Once you have identified your reason for needing an attorney, there are several approaches that you may take. The more practical approach is the interview approach. Using this approach you select 2 or 3 attorneys and interview them to find out their expertise, experience, availability, fee structure, and most importantly whether their personality fits with what you want. For instance, if you are litigious, hire a bull dog of an attorney. Another approach is to select an attorney that has some relationship to you through family, friends or business. A benefit of this approach is that the attorney will have a stronger connection to who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. Finally, the approach most often used is the “one call that’s all” approach in that you simply find the name of one attorney and call that attorney. This approach provides the advantage of simplicity, but beware of pitfalls that may counterbalance any time or effort saved.

While any of these approaches work, the key for you is to find an attorney whose personality, work ethic, and expertise work for you. The practice of law is not brain surgery. Any attorney can handle any simple legal matter and will know or can find someone who can handle the complex matters or matters they do not want to handle. As with all service providers, you should consider how much time and effort you want to spend on finding the one right attorney for you as well as the complexity of your reason for seeking an attorney. Do not hire a family doctor for brain surgery and do not hire a brain surgeon for a common cold.

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