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Choosing a Lawyer

What to look for when choosing a lawyer

From litigation to divorce to criminal charges, the legal system is fraught with pitfalls. One misstep could have people paying for it much later on. Regardless of how well one thinks they know their way around the law, it is unwise to undertake such a substantial project without the help of a lawyer. Still, finding a good lawyer can be a challenge in and of itself but luckily there are a few ways individuals can make sure that they are well-represented while in court.

For many people, their initial instinct when it comes to looking for a lawyer is to check the phone book or yellow pages. While this will certainly yield plenty of names and results, the quality may not be what they're looking for. Not only that, but it is almost impossible to glean all the information one may need from a small ad. Instead, those in need of legal help may want to turn to family, friends or professional contacts who have needed similar assistance in the past.

According to advice from Forbes, asking one's employer for assistance on certain matters can turn out to be a great idea. Many companies have special or general employee assistance programs (EAP) and while this may not find someone a long-time lawyer it could provide them with quick legal advice or offer them a valuable step in a more lengthy process.

While employers can offer some help, those looking for a more discrete or substantial form of assistance may want to turn to those closest to them. This is especially helpful if the person knows someone who may have gone through the same thing, whether it be declaring bankruptcy o dealing with a lawsuit. Of course, experts are quick to point out that a personal recommendation alone should not decide whether or not a person settles on a specific lawyer - it should really come down to the in-person meeting.

Anybody who does not trust their acquaintances with such an important decision may want to turn to people who know lawyers best, in this case the American Bar Association. Forbes suggests turning to the ABA's Lawyer Referral Directory. The group provides information on lawyers from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., so if someone finds themselves in a bind it is certainly an excellent resource. This is also an important step in checking if the lawyer is in good standing with the association.

Regardless of which route one chooses, one of the best things to consider doing before looking for representation is to narrow one's search to lawyers who may specialize in their particular field. It's very common to find attorneys who have a niche clientele ranging from defense to divorce lawyers, and by narrowing one's focus, an individual can expedite the process.

Once a list is compiled it will likely be a good idea for searchers to do some research to see what any of the lawyer's previous clients have had to say about them. This can be done through a number of different avenues including the website for the Better Business Bureau, which allows users to search from state-to-state and look up if there have been any complaints filed against a particular firm.

Finding a list of possible attorneys is just the beginning, however. One will certainly want to screen a few before making a decision, and there are several questions that everyone should ask their prospective representation.

According to Forbes, one of the most crucial things a person should ask before making a decision is who exactly will be working on the case once it starts. It is not uncommon for a high powered attorney to hand off the work to another lawyer, so make sure to inquire about the firm's policies.

People should also be sure to ask their prospective choice about his or her credentials. Although it's highly likely that they have checked out their reputation and standing with the AMA ahead of time, there are a number of certifications that lawyers can obtain to supplement their background, such as an Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) that might make them better suited for certain situations.

It may go without saying, but individuals should make sure they are aware of the billing structure before they agree on anything. There's nothing quite as bad as being surprised by unexpected charges and everyone should make sure they know how much each service costs before agreeing to give a lawyer their business.

During the interview process, prospective clients should also be sure to ask the lawyer if they themselves have any questions. This could be a good indicator of an attorney's attentiveness to a particular case, because they almost certainly will have questions if they want to know as much about the situation as possible.

Even after the selection is made, a client's work does not end there. At the start of the professional relationship they should be sure to establish certain ground rules to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Chiefly, items such as the best and worst case scenarios should be talked about as well as a timetable for the settlement of the matter.

As a final thing to think about, anybody considering getting a lawyer should make sure that they have a strategic plan in mind before they enter any legal proceedings. As if often the case, those with the best plan of attack generally come out on top and in the world of law, things are no different. When ironing out a final plan, keep in mind whether or not there are any possible obstacles, what the optimal results are and most importantly, how much it will cost to implement your case.