How To Hire A Lawyer

For almost all of us, there comes a time when we need to hire a lawyer. It may be for business, personal, or family reasons. Sometimes it's clear that you need the assistance of a lawyer. You're starting a new business, being sued, buying a house, or you've been charged with a crime. At these times, there's no doubt that you should seek legal counsel.

I have a lot of people ask me how do they go about hiring a lawyer when the need arises, and whether lawyers that advertise or market their services are good or bad. Let me be clear, a client should never hire someone because of the ads they read. But ads and websites can be very useful in identifying which lawyers may be a good fit for you.

Finding The Right Attorney for You

If you look at the "full page" ads in the yellow pages, or modern looking websites, you will likely find that there are two types of lawyers or firms advertising. The first type is by a local attorney or law firm, who will handle the case personally. The second type is by an attorney, or law firm, from outside the Oregon area, sometimes from the same attorney who runs the huge television ad campaigns. These lawyers don’t handle your case personally, and will instead refer your case to a local attorney for a fee. In fact, the operators of these sites often aren’t even lawyers. They’re computer coders who’ve figured out how to get clicks and sell those as leads. You won’t have any say in who your case is referred to. It just goes to the attorney who’s agreed to pay for the leads. Be very careful in responding to what I call “lawyer directory sites”.

However, today internet research and investigation are crucial tools for people searching for the right lawyer. And the more information available to the public, the greater chance that the client will find the right lawyer. That’s good for the client and the lawyer.

Tips for Researching Attorneys

So, as you investigate attorneys, and which attorney would be a good fit for you, your family, or your business, here are some tips.

  1. The most important thing for a client is to be comfortable and have confidence in their lawyer. In order to have confidence, you need to know something about the lawyer before you retain him or her.
  2. Look for an attorney who concentrates his or her practice in the area of law that you need. It may not be necessary that you hire a lawyer who ONLY does your type of case (as that may mean you’re paying ”boutique style” fees), but a good understanding of your type of case is important. Our lawyers have varying levels of experience, but that means you may hire a less experienced attorney, at his or her rate, but have the advantage of the senior attorney down the hall.
  3. Determine what kind of qualities are important to you. Do you want someone young and who is willing to make up for a lack of experience through hard work, or someone with well-established credentials? Does your case require someone who has special knowledge of a certain area of law (like tax law or SEC investigations).
  4. Ask friends if they know (or have experience with) an attorney. But, you still may not want to hire your 3rd cousin who once won a speeding ticket case for your uncle.
  5. Find out what legal organizations the lawyer belongs to. At the very least, he should belong to the County and State Bar Associations. There are special bar organizations, such as the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, that keep its members up on the most current developments in the law. If an attorney is a member of a special bar section, that’s a good thing.
  6. Don't be fooled by advertising slogans, such as "aggressive trial lawyer", you should still meet the lawyer and decide if you have confidence in his or her skills and feel comfortable with their analysis of your case.
  7. Ask who will work on your case if you hire this attorney, and what their experience level is. Ask what rates they bill at. What percentage of work will these other people be doing, and what percentage of time will your attorney be dedicating to your case? Now is also a good time to find out what would happen to your case if your attorney became ill or unexpectedly became unavailable. Harris Law Firm has significant staff and professional support.
  8. Discuss the facts of your case. At this point, attorneys should be able to discuss how he or she will proceed and what he will do. You should discuss law office communications and what ancillary services the attorney thinks you will need (e.g. psychotherapy, accounting, private investigation, etc).
  9. Remember there is no official list of the best lawyers. There is no official "win/loss" rate. Be very suspicious of attorneys who claim to "specialize" in a certain type of case. A lawyer may concentrate or focus in an area but may not claim to be a specialist unless an outside agency certified to make the designation so awards him with that designation.
  10. If you’re looking for a criminal defense attorney, Public defenders get a bad rap, but they are the most experienced criminal defense lawyers. In spite of popular opinion, public defenders are extremely skilled (in general). Public defenders are generally reserved for people who cannot afford private attorneys. Hence when you have to hire a private attorney, you would be well served to hire a former public defender.

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