How do you choose the best lawyer for your case?
You probably would not hire your family practice physician or PCP to perform brain surgery, and you probably should not hire a general practice lawyer, or a probate lawyer, tax lawyer or bankruptcy lawyer to handle a serious injury case. Every lawyer licensed in your state is technically qualified to represent you in court, but lawyers specialize, just like doctors. There are many lawyers who rarely ever go to court, and there are some who have never been to court at all, except to get sworn in! They may be excellent lawyers, but they only handle transactions, or draft contracts, wills or trusts.
Some lawyers have developed their specialties through experience and others may have earned credentials similar to Board certification for doctors. Personal injury lawyers have to be licensed to practice law, just like every other lawyer in your state. But good personal injury lawyers have to be prepared to take the client’s case to court, and need to have real trial experience and solid credentials. How do you know if the lawyer you are considering has the experience needed for your personal injury case, and is reputable, effective and honest?
Here are some guidelines to help you find the best lawyer for your personal injury or wrongful death case:
These guidelines can also help you find the best lawyer for your divorce or a criminal case, estate planning, or bankruptcy:
- Start by learning about your legal problem. Search the internet, and read some articles, so you can begin to understand the issues in your case. For instance, if you are injured on the job, you can probably seek workers compensation benefits from your employer, but generally you cannot sue your employer for causing the injury, and your recovery may be limited to medical expenses and some disability benefits. If your injury was due to a wreck, you may be able sue the person or company who was at fault, and recover for your medical expenses, lost earnings, permanent disability, and pain and suffering.
- Use a genuine peer reviewed and/or client reviewed directory or rating service to identify lawyers who have the necessary experience and credentials to handle your case. Here are some of the best online resources for obtaining unbiased ratings from other lawyers and from clients:
- Warning: The internet is full of lawyer referral services which are nothing but paid advertising, with no assurance of experience or credentials. Be careful and check out the source.
- Depending on the situation, ask family, friends or a trusted professional for the names of some attorneys who you might want to contact. Good attorneys will usually have a good reputation in the community.
Ten Questions To Ask Your Potential Lawyer
- How long has he or she practiced law?
- What type of cases does the lawyer generally handle? What percentage of his or her practice is devoted to (the practice area in question)?
- Who is the lawyer’s typical client?
- How many cases has he or she handled that are similar to mine?
- What kind of special training or knowledge does the lawyer have that might apply in my situation?
- What are the attorney fees and costs? Can the case be handled on a contingency fee? If not, how will I be billed?
- Who will I be working with? Will the lawyer I meet with actually be handling my case?
- How will the lawyer let me know what’s happening with my case?
- What is the likely outcome in my case?