We hardly ever go to a lawyer when things are going well for us. Aside from preparing a will or reviewing a contract, if we’re meeting with a legal professional, we’ve either made a serious mistake, or someone has wronged us.
Choosing an attorney to represent you is a critical decision, no matter your circumstances. Having the right lawyer in your corner, who will fight to get you the best possible outcome, involves careful research and consideration on your part.
Though I hope you never have to face a day you’ll have no choice but to call on an attorney, you need to be prepared, and the following considerations will help you choose the person who will take a stand and fight for you.
Know Your Circumstances
The first thing you’ll need to think about is what’s going on in your life that you need an attorney to help resolve. If you’re being convicted of a crime, you’ll need a criminal lawyer to help you beat the rap, or at the least, reduce your sentence. If you’re facing a divorce, a civil lawyer who specializes in divorce is an obvious choice.
Other factors that you should consider, but may be out of your control, are how much you can afford to spend on an attorney, how much time you’ll have to prepare if your case is going to court, and the judge who will preside over your case. Finding a lawyer who has an established history in cases with your presiding judge can be a huge help to you.
Consider Their Track Record
One of the most important factors that will help determine if a lawyer is worth pursuing is their experience and history in cases similar to yours. Consider how long a lawyer has been practising, and get a copy of their court history: the more cases they have won, the better chance they’ll be able to get a resolution that will benefit you.
Along with their past history, determine how much of your attorney’s caseload is currently devoted to your type of case. If you need an attorney to represent you in a motorcycle accident, but 75% of their cases are devoted to medical malpractice, you may risk being a low priority for that attorney.
Ask Another Attorney
No one knows a lawyer better than another lawyer. If you have a lawyer who’s represented you in the past, even if they’re not a fit for your current situation, or your family’s attorney who helped your dad set up his will, reach out to them to get their opinion on the attorney you’re considering.
Look at the Cost
Though it’s an obvious factor, you can’t just look at the end dollar amount you’ll owe your attorney for their services. Other factors involving cost include the services, and extent of those services, included in your fees, any costs your lawyer will require up front, and payment options to settle your costs over time. Be wary of “in as little as…for a simple case” ads that lawyers post: your case may take turns that neither you, or potentially your lawyer, predicted, and suddenly your “simple case” is anything but simple.
Additionally, more does not automatically equal better with attorneys; just because a lawyer is charging more does not make them anymore certified or competent to win your case than anyone else. Look at certifications, track record, and the amount of trust you place in a lawyer before deciding they’re worth an extra $2,000.