5 Simple Ways to Find the Best Attorney for You
When I first told my father that I wanted to be an attorney, my father's response was a very common one. He said, "Oh, that's easy, you just have to learn to lie."
Unfortunately, my father is not the only person who thinks lawyers get paid to lie, many people do. So, how do you, as a potential client, find a lawyer that is honest and ethical?
1. State Bar Website
A great place to start is to look up the attorney in your state's bar website. Every state has it's own State Bar Association. The State Bar is the institution that grants people like me, the license (authority) to practice law in a particular state. In California, it is easy to search for an attorney by name. By searching for the attorney on the State Bar website, you will be able to determine whether this person is in fact an attorney, whether they are currently licensed to practice law, and whether the State Bar has taken any disciplinary actions against the particular attorney, like disbarment or suspension.
2. Yelp and Social Media
The reality is that even after you confirm that an attorney is licensed to practice law, your search does not end there. Unfortunately, there are attorneys who are unethical they just haven't gotten caught. Others may have been disciplined but are still licensed to practice law. Looking at the State Bar website may not be enough for you to determine whether your lawyer is honest and ethical.
Thanks to technology and social media however, there are plenty of websites that allow people to "rate" and review an attorney. Just like you can rate a restaurant on Yelp you can rate an attorney or law firm on Yelp. While some reviews on Yelp may be biased, I do believe that the majority of Yelp reviews for any business are accurate or at least they give you a good inclination as to whether the attorney is a good one or not. The more one or two star reviews you see, the more skeptical you should be.
3. Local County Bar Association
Every county has a local bar association. The Santa Clara County Bar Association has a Lawyer Referral Service program. For a small fee, the Bar Association will schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney that meets your criteria. The good thing about a Lawyer Referral Service program is that we as attorney's get pre-screened to ensure we are competent in our particular area of law. In this way, the Bar Association guarantees that you will at least get a consultation with a competent and experienced attorney.
4. Personal Referrals
While a referral through the county bar association can guarantee competence, it does not guarantee whether the attorney has a good personality, good communication skills, or whether the attorney actually cares about his or her clients. This is why personal referrals are sometimes the best way to find an attorney. Knowing someone who has been a client of the attorney you are intending to hire can inform you not only as to competence of the attorney, but also to their personality, communication skills and overall likeness of the person.
Like with most businesses, word of mouth for an attorney is the most powerful form of advertisement. "Good news travels fast but bad news travels faster." Therefore, if you hear bad things about a particular attorney, you should probably steer clear of them. Likewise, if a friend of yours recommends an attorney to you, it is likely that he or she is making the referral because they genuinely liked working with that attorney. However, be cautious. An attorney may be great at family law or immigration but may not have enough knowledge about wage and hour claims or personal injury matters. Therefore, even with a personal referral, be sure the attorney actually practices the area of law where you need assistance.
5. Meet with the Attorney
After you have ensured that the attorney is licensed to practice law in your state and you have read their reviews, the final step is to actually meet with the attorney. Within the first few minutes of meeting someone we make decisions as to whether we like someone or not. Therefore, until and unless you meet the attorney, you will not know if you like the attorney enough to pay them for their services.
The difficulty comes when you have attorneys charging high consultation fees. This means that you have to pay a couple hundred dollars just to determine whether you want to hire the attorney. If money is a determinate factor, then I recommend you go through your local county bar association. As stated above, the lawyer referral fee for a free consultation is minimal compared to consultation fees. Also, the Santa Clara County Bar Association will allow you to meet with a second attorney for a free consultation if you are not satisfied with the first attorney you met.
To end this post as it began, I will tell you another thing my father told me when I told him I wanted to be an attorney. After telling me that being a lawyer was easy because all I had to do was learn to lie, he told me, "You are not going to be a good attorney." To which I replied, "Why?!!"
He responded with an answer that I always carry with me, and one that I take as a compliment and testament to the person and attorney that I am. My father said that I would not be a good attorney because I care too much. This is true. I do care a lot about my clients. But, caring does not make me a bad attorney; in fact, I believe it makes be a better attorney. Most of my clients know within 5 minutes whether they want to hire me or not. I firmly believe that when it comes to finding an attorney, you have to find someone that actually cares and is empathetic to your situation. Otherwise, you may find yourself hiring an attorney whose only interest is making another dollar.