I'm Hiring a Lawyer!
Okay, that’s great. Maybe those words put some fear in your adversary. But how do you know that the lawyer you hire will be the right lawyer for your case or the best fit for your personality? How can you determine if that lawyer is even competent, let alone excellent at her job?
With so much information available, the answers to these questions should not be a secret. In fact, if you do just a little homework and research, you should be able to find the best fit far more often. I’ll share my thoughts and tips on hiring the best lawyer for you below.
What’s It All About?
The very first thing to consider when hiring a lawyer is, “what type of case is this?” You wouldn’t ask your house painter to install your kitchen floor, so why would you expect the guy who did your real estate closing on your house a decade ago to handle a breach of contract case against your house painter for leaving the job before it was completed?
However, many people are not veterans of three years of “issue spotting” in law school, so they have no idea what type of case it is or how to even figure it out. Start with easy things, like, is your dispute with a person or a business? Is it about money that is owed to you? Or is it about money someone is claiming you owe them? If it is about that type of thing, is there a written contract or other document involved? Or are you unhappy with your spouse and thinking about getting a divorce? Did you purchase a home and have a child and need to make an estate plan? Did someone in your family die and leave you money in their will, or are you named as a trustee or executor of someone’s estate? Is your child having problems with bullies at school?
Those are just a few of the many types of reasons you might want to consult with a lawyer. By narrowing things down, you can come to the realization that “I need a divorce lawyer” or “I think I need a contract litigator” or “I will need a lawyer who prepares estate plans.” Once you get that general idea of the kind of lawyer you need, I will show you later how to find the best fit for you.
Needless to say, if your case involves a car crash, slip and fall, a work injury, or medical malpractice, I believe I should be your first stop.
Looking Through The Junk Drawer
Everyone has a junk drawer. Usually, it’s in the kitchen, and it contains odd things like rubber bands, discarded business cards, batteries, and scraps of paper. Most of it is absolutely useless, but there might just be some helpful stuff in there, like the name of a lawyer you previously hired for something.
If you have used a lawyer for anything in the past, and had a good experience with him or her, start by asking him or her who they recommend for your legal problem. Most lawyers have vast networks of other lawyers in other practice areas and are only too happy to recommend competent friends in other areas. Just like the best person to ask for an endodontist (root canal specialist) is your trusted family dentist, the best place to start asking about lawyers is your trusted lawyer!
This may result in a dead end. Not every lawyer knows someone who practices in every area of the law. They may not know anyone who meets your needs, or may not even understand your particular issue. Fortunately, you have other options if that’s the case.
Is There a Lawyer in the House?
There are many places you can look to find the best lawyer for your situation.
A site known as Avvo (www.avvo.com) is a fantastic resource. You will find every single lawyer in every single state has a profile on that site. Using public information, you can find out the disciplinary history of any lawyer.
Search your state’s lawyer disciplinary site. In Illinois, that can be found at www.iardc.org, which is the website for the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. There, you can search for a lawyer by name. That search will pull up whether that lawyer has malpractice insurance (really important if they make a mistake that ruins your case!), whether they have any history of being disciplined by the IARDC, and whether they are licensed to practice in good standing currently.
If a lawyer has claimed her profile on Avvo, you can learn a lot more about the type of law she practices, her successes, philosophies, and the like.
But the best feature of all is that you can search for lawyers by geographical area, name, and practice area. If you are upset the house painter used wash off paint for your house when the contract called for permanent paint, you are looking for a lawyer who handles things like “contracts and disputes.” If you live in Chicago, you can also type that in and find lawyers who handle those matters in that area. The site gives ratings, posts reviews, and other helpful information.
Once you have narrowed your search down to a few particular lawyers, the next place to look is their websites, LinkedIn profiles, and social media posts. Use Google to find out what people think of these lawyers, both positively and negatively. If a lawyer has no active website, or it is hopelessly out of date, that is a red flag. If the lawyer posts things you find offensive on his social media, maybe that’s an indication that he’s not the right lawyer for you. If all the reviews are five stars, you may wonder, “are these all legitimate?” Read closely to see if the reviews seem genuine. Obviously, negative reviews are a huge concern.
Right as Rain
There is no “right lawyer” for every case and every client. We all approach problems differently. We all have different budgets, expectations, personalities, and communications methods and preferences.
So don’t just hire “the best” or “the biggest” or “the one I saw on television.” You might wind up with a fabulous lawyer with whom you get along splendidly. Then again, you could wind up with ethically challenged, slimy Jimmy McGill a/k/a Saul Goodman, from both of the fabulous series “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”
How do you find the right lawyer for you? Do some self-analysis and then work backwards. Ask yourself what type of personality you get along with best. Do you want an “elbow-throwing jerk” or do you want a dignified, bland, but experienced litigator? What are your expectations for communication? Do you want your calls, emails, and texts returned immediately? On weekends? After hours? Are you willing to pay for that service? Or are you fine if the lawyer just calls you up when everything is done? Do you prefer being billed up front or do you want a monthly bill? How much detail do you want about what’s happening in your case?
Then, start interviewing lawyers who seem to fit your needs and have no disciplinary concerns, great reviews, and handle cases like yours in your geographical area. Do you get stuck in voicemail/phone automation hell? Do you talk to a live person? Do you ever talk to the lawyer? Does he or she sound glad to hear from you or annoyed that you're taking up time? Is this a lawyer in a large firm or a solo?
You know what works for you. You know in the first 30 seconds if the person you’ve searched online and are now calling is a good fit for you. Trust your instincts.
It’s Not All About The Money
If you only want the lawyer with the cheapest hourly rate, best flat rate, or the lowest contingency rate, you are doing yourself a disservice. Think of it this way; a lawyer who bills $200 per hour may bill you for a lot more hours and more tasks whereas someone with a rate of $350 hourly may provide “no charge” for phone calls, emails, and texts.
Discuss all this when you interview lawyers. Talk about reasonable expectations for communication, charges for things, whether you will be dealing directly with that lawyer or an associate or paralegal.
Here is another way to view things; if you are an anxious person who expects your calls, emails, and texts to be responded to within the hour, you will not be happy with a lawyer who tells you he does not respond to texts from clients the same day.
Many lawyers feature an online portal to view documents, communicate confidentially, and collaborate on strategy. If your most sophisticated tech trick is to receive texts from your grandson, this may not be a great fit, unless your attorney is willing to communicate with you in a way you are comfortable with.
Right Type of Lawyer, Right Background, Right Personality, Right Fit
To recap, you need the right type of lawyer, who handles your type of matter. You want a lawyer who has great reviews, published success, and no disciplinary history. A current website or online profile is important, as well. Determine the type of personality that jibes best with yours. Get as close as you can in choosing a lawyer.
- Do your homework before hiring a lawyer
- Ask around to trusted friends and prior lawyers
- Use your online research resources to pick out those who seem to work for you
- Talk to several and opt for the one who fits your personality and expectations best.
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front, and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.