From the Desk of Terry A. Trogdon
It sounds simple enough. You have a legal problem or concern and want to ask a knowledgeable professional about it. This means you need to find an attorney who can solve your problem or answer your question. Easy, right? Maybe not. Where do you start?
The first thing is to try as best you can to figure out what kind of attorney you need. While all attorneys have a basic knowledge of law and the system, most have areas of the law in which they are more knowledgeable or experienced. This means you have to look at the kind of question you have.
There are some major categories of law practice that may address your issue. Some general areas are personal injury (accidents, defamation, emotional distress), family law (custody, divorce, adoption), probate and estates and elder law (wills, trusts, guardian-ship), real estate (buy/sell, titles, deeds, rights), litigation (contracts, enforcing rights), business (LLP, LLC, corporations), criminal (crimes, DUI, traffic and other citations) immigration, employment, tax law. This is a partial list but can help you try to identify what kind of law office to call.
Once you have an idea of what kind of attorney and law office you need, call that office. Ask if they handle your type of matter. You may talk with an attorney when you call or you may talk with a staff person. Either should be able to tell you if you have the right kind of attorney. If you cannot get a satisfactory answer, call another office or two. You should take notes about who you called and what you discussed with them so you don’t call them again and so you can move to the next step of selecting which attorney you will go see.
After you have a few names of likely attorneys, ask your friends and relatives about their experiences with attorneys and whether they have any that they like and think did a good job for them. Winning is not always an indicator of doing a good job for a client. Sometimes not “winning” actually gets a great result for a client, especially if the matter is one that may be ongoing.
You will want to know if the attorney re-turned phone calls and kept them informed of the activity in their case and whether the attorney explained things to them in a manner that they could understand. You will also want to know if they thought their attorney understood them and what they were saying.
Once you have a potential attorney select-ed you should check various websites to see if they have an active license, are in good standing and have professional (Malpractice) insurance. You may also wish to check for any memberships to special interest lawyers’ associations.
What you are looking for in doing these things is an attorney in good standing who has a good knowledge base about your kind of matter, who listens and understands you, who gets the job done and who communicates with you well. It is important to feel that you are being heard and that your concerns are being addressed and to know that your attorney is meeting professional standards.
As you choose your attorney and work with him or her you should always be clear about your expectations as well as the attorney’s expectations. Expectations about possible outcomes is obviously very important but you are more likely to be satisfied with your attorney and your case if there is clarity about management of your case, type and frequency of communication, and costs.
Choosing an attorney is not easy but it is important. Take the time and effort to find one that you like and can talk to and who can also do a good job for you.