If you suddenly had legal problems, what would you do? Like any responsible person, you’d hire a lawyer. But, how do you find the right lawyer, one who will effectively represent your interests throughout a potentially lengthy and difficult legal process?
While there are no easy answers to this question, hiring a lawyer who has demonstrated several qualities in their work and action is a good starting point. Here are the five qualities to look for in a lawyer:
1. Legal Expertise: Your attorney should be well-versed in the organization and management of legal work — from research and investigation to analysis and evaluation. Ask attorneys you are considering about their experience, specifically in cases like yours.
2. Problem Solving: Beyond basic legal competence, your lawyer should be innovative in developing your case. When identifying pertinent issues, refining arguments and devising a legal strategy, a little creativity goes a long way. While this is a hard quality to judge in an interview, ask them about their approach to problem solving and for an example of how they’ve been creative in a previous case.
3. Communication: An attorney must explain complicated legal issues to a range of audiences in an understandable and persuasive manner. Most importantly your lawyer needs to help you understand the complexities of the legal system. But they must also be able to get their message across to opposing counsel, a judge, and possibly a jury. If they don’t communicate well with you, they may not communicate well on your behalf.
4. Negotiation: Cases can sometimes be settled outside of court. Doing so not only avoids a long, drawn-out court proceeding, but also typically saves you money and time you’ll have to pay your attorney for. Lawyers who are most skilled at negotiating typically resolve cases that are agreeable to both sides. When you consider a lawyer, ask them about their track record for negotiating settlements, if they typically settle out of court and if their previous customers are typically happy with the settlements.
5. Specialization: If your situation involves a highly specialized area of the law (say, computer software intellectual property), you should hire a lawyer with proven expertise in that area. Ask the attorney you are interviewing about their experience in cases like yours. If they don’t have any, you may want to find someone who does.
While interviewing lawyers may take some time, it is often the best way to find the right attorney to represent you. Of course, the way most people find a lawyer is from a personal referral from someone who has faced similar legal issues. If you don’t have a friend or family member who has faced the same type of case, consider seeking the advice of business people who come into frequent contact with attorneys. Professionals such as bankers, accountants and real estate brokers regularly interact with lawyers, giving them great insight into who’s effective and who’s not.
Lawyer referral services are another source of information, as are your state and local Chambers of Commerce.
Hiring a lawyer is serious business. Make sure you take the time necessary to make the choice that’s right for you and your legal circumstances.