In a perfect world, you will only need a lawyer a handful of times throughout your life. Sometimes, we seek legal counsel more often than others, though.
The one common thing about finding a lawyer is that you rarely need one lawyer throughout your life. It is more likely that you will need a different lawyer to write your will, close on your house, and settle your worker’s comp claim.
In addition to considering the different specialties within the law, you also have to keep in mind different personality types. That means, when it comes time to choose the right lawyer for whatever it is you might need assistance with, it can become very challenging.
We’ve broken it down into eight categories to help you know what to look for in a lawyer when it comes time to hire one.
While it would be ideal to hire the most experienced lawyer in whichever field you may need, that is not always a realistic option. But, as much as possible, you want to find someone who has extensive experience in the field in which you need guidance. Much like most things in life, experience teaches us the most valuable lessons.
Although lawyers go through rigorous schooling, we all know that we learn so much more outside of the classroom. Much of the experience gained in the field becomes more valuable than anything learned from a textbook.
Some examples of skills learned through experience over schooling may include:
- Negotiating with opposing legal counsels
- Valuing cases for settlement terms
- Identifying sympathetic jurors
- Skillfully cross-examining witnesses
- Developing a stronger argument to the jury
- Persuading judges to rule in their favor
As a lawyer gains experience in court, they can develop a better understanding of the local judges and juries, helping them gauge how they will respond to different types of evidence and witnesses.
Generally speaking, any competent lawyer should be able to handle smaller cases easily. The more complex an issue you have, the more you want to prioritize your lawyer’s level of experience in the field.
General practice lawyers typically cover a wide range of law areas and can cover anything from filing bankruptcies to handling probate. If you have a small and straightforward case, general practice lawyers might be able to help you just fine.
But, if your case demands a more in-depth look into a specific area of law, often even general practice lawyers will refer cases out. Limited practices will specialize in just a few law areas to fully develop their knowledge and skills within this field.
You will typically find that limited practice lawyers will belong to professional associations relating to their area of law specifically. For example, here are a few professional associations in and the fields they specialize in:
|California Applicants’ Attorneys Association||Workers’ compensation cases|
|California Employment Lawyers’ Association||Employment discrimination/wage and hour violations|
|American Immigration Lawyers Association||Immigration law and policy|
|Association of Defense Trial Attorneys||Defense within the civil justice system|
|National Association of Consumer Advocates||Unfair business practices and predatory lending|
These professional associations help lawyers to build a network within their field, allowing them to attend extended learning within their specialties and deepen their overall knowledge.
Lawyers are judged not only by their clients but also by the judges they present to and their peers. As a lawyer gains experience in their field, they also tend to develop a reputation. If you can find a lawyer with a good reputation, you know that that will be an excellent option for your case.
You can find out about a lawyer’s reputation by merely asking for friend or family referrals. Keep in mind that a lawyer that worked well for your friend might not necessarily work well for you, but it is worth setting up a meeting at least to find out.
Another way to seek out a referral would be by asking a lawyer that you have previously hired for a referral in the specialty for which you are looking. While the lawyer you initially saw may not help you, they should be able to provide you with one, if not multiple, referrals.
No thanks to the countless lawyer jokes, often lawyers are now associated with dishonesty or shady business. While there are undoubtedly lawyers that do fit the mold, more often than not, you will see that lawyers are honest, hard-working individuals.
While lawyers do need to be strong and tough negotiators, this is typically in the best interest of their client they are serving. Also, keep in mind that a lawyer can be aggressive without being dishonest; the two do not necessarily come hand in hand.
A good, reputable lawyer knows that integrity is essential for their clients to promote referrals throughout a community. Lawyers work hard to maintain a high level of integrity so that their clients will tell their friends about them. Always be on the lookout for referrals or comments about lawyers that emphasize trust.
Much like in any professional career, you will find lawyers who see their careers are nothing more than a job. The lawyers that stand out as exemplary to others are the ones who are compassionate about what they do. These lawyers care about the clients they serve and hope to bring justice to those in need.
An excellent way to gauge a lawyer’s level of compassion is in the initial interview. While all lawyers should ask a lot of questions about the case to learn as much as possible, good lawyers will ask in-depth questions to make sure they fully understand your concerns.
Lawyers should not become emotionally attached to their clients, as this can cloud their professional judgments, but they should still have a level of care about your concerns for your case.
Similar to any working relationship, communication is the foundation. Lawyers and clients will spend countless hours, potentially days, together with discussing the case elements, taking it to court, etc. You must have a good rapport with the person you are hiring to represent you throughout the process.
The communication between a lawyer and a client is a two-way street. You want to make sure that your lawyer understands your expectations and that you, too, understand theirs and can communicate freely amongst each other.
Finding a great lawyer might be straightforward enough, but what about the costs associated? It’s hard to find the perfect balance of all elements of a lawyer. As previously mentioned, if you have a smaller case, you might be able to save some cost by looking for a general practice lawyer. But, if you have a complicated issue, it might be worth the extra bucks to find the best of the best.
Lawyers can charge hourly rates ranging anywhere from $50 to well over $1,000. Rates depend on the firm’s geographical location, size and reputation, and the lawyer’s prestige. When you discuss rates, make sure you have a clear idea of the rates, how they charge them, when they charge them, and all other necessary details.
When you are looking to hire a lawyer, be sure to shop around and get rates from a handful of different options before making your final decision. You should gauge what a reasonable price is for the line of work for which you are looking.
One thing to look out for when comparing costs is that inexperienced attorneys may charge you a lower hourly fee, but it could take them twice as long as an experienced attorney to complete the same amount of work.
Finally, you will need to consider availability when you are looking to hire legal assistance. You might find that you have some flexibility regarding availability in some circumstances, while others require immediate attention.
In addition to general availability for taking on your case, you will also want to ask important questions like how readily available they will be for calls, emergencies, and other things of that nature. In larger firms, lawyers will have teams that can respond on their behalf, so be sure you are clear in asking who you will be able to reach in any given circumstance.
Make sure that your expectations regarding availability are realistic. Remember that while you might have one lawyer for your case, your lawyer does not only have just your case they are working. Prioritize your needs and ensure that you have a cohesive working relationship to handle emergencies as quickly as possible.
Conclusion – What to Look for in a Lawyer
Determining what to look for in a lawyer is truly dependent on your specific needs for your case. Some cases might allow you more flexibility in terms of experience levels, while others will require the highest, sure to be accompanied by the highest rates.
While it is essential to look at your specific needs and assess your priorities, these 8 categories are a great place to start.
If you are someone you know is considering hiring a lawyer, we highly recommend this site, where you can get a free, no hassle consultation from a reputable attorney in your area.
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Emily is a professionally trained freelance writer who covers a wide range of topics but specializes in business, law and hospitality content. With over a decade of professional writing experience in the hospitality industry, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a BS from the world-renowned William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV. When she is not spending her time freelance writing, Emily enjoys growing her social media skills and spending time with her rescue puppy. Find out more about Emily’s extensive background or reach out directly at www.linkedin.com/in/Emily-Kho.