With millions of attorneys licensed to practice law in the United States, how do you decide which attorney is best suited to help solve your legal issues?
Selecting the right attorney can be a time-consuming, but important process. Here are some top points to consider when selecting an attorney:
1. Identify Your Legal Problem and Use a Specialist
The first step in the process of finding an attorney is to understand the problem or issue facing you. The law has many different specialties and sub-specialties, and before you can accurately determine the best attorney to represent you, you need to determine what kind of lawyer is best suited to address and resolve your problem. During this initial phase, consult your general corporate lawyer or another trusted business advisor such as your accountant. Select a specialist to help you solve your problem. Lawyers today are as specialized as doctors. You would not ask your internist to perform open heart surgery. Likewise, you should not ask your general corporate lawyer to handle a criminal case.
2. Make Sure the Attorney has the Right Experience
The appropriate level of experience is one of the most critical criteria in selecting a lawyer. You want a lawyer with a track record of success with your type of problem. Such a record of experience will increase the likelihood that the attorney can help to resolve your problem successfully.
3. Use an Attorney Familiar with Your Region
Whether you use a local or national specialist depends on the nature of the matter at issue. For example, real estate or workers’ compensation matters are almost always handled locally. On the other hand, matters of federal law, such as wage and hour or labor law can be handled best by national specialists. Transportation and technology make it possible to use a specialist from almost anywhere in the country.
4. Ask About Fees and Other Business Arrangements
At some point in the decision-making process, the discussion will inevitably turn to cost. Ask the attorney to explain the firm’s billing procedures and methods. Most attorneys will bill by the hour, but contingency arrangements and alternative billing methods are becoming increasingly popular these days. Also, ask if the attorney would consider a reduced rate for increased volume of work. Ask what other charges you can expect to receive from the attorney for handling your case, such as travel charges, expert fees, copying, postage, etc. In addition, ask if the attorney charges you the attorneys’ hourly rates for travel time, if applicable.
Competition among attorneys is fiercer than ever and it is amazing how accommodating attorneys will be to get new work. However, never make the decision as to which attorney is best for your company based solely on cost. Once you have engaged the attorney, expect to get a written engagement letter that addresses the billing arrangement and other aspects of the relationship.