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Choosing the Right Lawyer

When you need legal advice, you think about a lawyer. If you go online and look up lawyer referral services, you'll see lists of names and addresses that all look the same. The next step is picking the right lawyer for your legal problem. But how? Choosing the right lawyer makes all the difference in resolving your case. FindLaw's Choosing the Right Lawyer section offers tips on interviewing and researching a lawyer. You can also find information on the different practice areas of law and the requirements for becoming a lawyer.

A Few Tips When Hiring an Attorney

Having a good lawyer doesn't guarantee that you'll win your case. But having the right attorney for your case will give you the best chance for a favorable outcome. Practice area, costs, location, and specialization, are all things you should consider when researching your attorney.

  • Practice Area. FindLaw's practice area page can help you find the type of lawyer best suited to your legal needs. Your situation may call for an attorney specializing in one area of law, such as adoption, or you may have a more general concern, such as business contracts.
  • Communication. Your initial consultation should let you know if you can communicate with your prospective attorney. A good attorney-client relationship is essential for your case. You must feel comfortable talking with your lawyer about all facets of the case. You also need to know your attorney will take the time necessary to explain your case.
  • Location. You should find an attorney close to you. Of course, any attorney licensed to practice by the state bar association can practice in your state. Still, legal assistance is more than court appearances. You will need to meet periodically with your attorney, and you and your attorney may need to appear in court. Each courthouse has its own practice procedures, known as "local rules." Attorneys are familiar with the local rules of nearby courthouses.
  • Background. Take time and do some research on the attorneys you plan to meet. The American Bar Association (ABA) and local bar associations have websites where you can verify the attorney's credentials and see if they have any disciplinary action against them.

Attorney Fees

Everyone worries about attorney fees. Attorneys are expensive, but so is letting your legal issue slide until it's too late. FindLaw has a range of articles on attorney fee agreements to help you determine what arrangement is best for you.

Briefly, legal fees fall into three main categories. Most attorneys charge hourly fees, like any other professional service. The hourly rate depends on the nature of the legal services and the attorney's experience. Attorneys may charge a flat fee for basic services, such as writing a demand letter. Lawyers take personal injury cases on a contingency fee, where the attorney gets paid once the case settles.

Low-cost/no-cost legal aid services are available for qualifying people. Free legal aid is only for specific legal situations. But, other low-cost services are available through legal clinics, law schools, and attorneys doing pro bono services. Criminal cases can receive free defense attorneys if they cannot afford a lawyer.

Types of Law Firms

Another consideration is the type of law firm. Some law firms consist of one attorney, while others have hundreds of attorneys across the country. Law firms vary in size, type of practice, or practice area. Picking a law firm will depend on your geographical location, finances, personal work preference, and legal matters.

A solo law firm is exactly what it sounds like — a law firm run by a single lawyer. Solo practitioners may handle a variety of topics or specialize in one area of law. Solo practitioners can be less expensive and provide more one-on-one personal attention than larger firms. But, a solo firm might lack experience or resources, particularly if the attorney is recently licensed.

A small law firm, sometimes called a boutique law firm, can have from two to 10 lawyers. A small law firm feels like a solo law firm but has more attorneys available for collaboration on legal matters. Having many lawyers also means the firm can take more types of cases. Boutique firms are likelier to specialize in a single area, such as family law or estate planning.

Large law firms have hundreds of employees, including lawyers, paralegals, and administrative staff. They can practice in many cities, states, and even countries. Large law firms often have attorneys in various legal practice areas and often have individual and corporate clients. Large firms may handle mass torts and class-action suits and take personal injury and product liability cases statewide. Large firms have enormous resources to call on and good court records, but clients can expect large bills when the case is over.

Finding the Right Kind of Lawyer

When you need legal help, your first stop is a good attorney referral service. Take the tips provided here and on FindLaw's other pages and put them into practice. Once you've found an attorney, the rest is up to them.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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