Regardless of why you need an attorney, it’s important that you find an affordable and reputable one. Attorneys are held to extremely high standards, but that doesn’t always mean that any attorney will be able to represent you well. Some attorneys specialize in certain areas — such as personal liability, estate law, or business law — while other attorneys may have a more general practice. Attorneys exist on a fairly wide spectrum so how can you make sure you’re getting the highest quality and lowest cost option? You have to begin your search to compare all attorneys in your area.
Finding the Right Attorney
Specialization matters. You can start by asking for referrals from friends and family members, but you need to know the type of attorney you need. Do you need a criminal attorney? Or a divorce attorney? Some attorneys specialize in different things, but they will rarely take cases outside their specialization. No attorney can know everything about everything, and you need the best attorney possible to represent you.
What if no one you know is able to recommend an attorney? You can go through your local bar association.
Your bar association will have a website that lists everyone currently registered with the bar. In other words, all active attorneys in your area. You can search by specialization and start calling around for a consultation. Most attorneys will have a nominal consultation fee or even a free consultation. If your budget is a concern, you can continue to call around until you find someone who might offer a free consultation or who may operate on a sliding scale.
But just knowing who your attorney options are doesn’t mean you’re finding the best one.
Getting an Attorney Within Your Budget
Budget matters a lot when choosing an attorney.
You might think that you’re only going through a process that will take a few months. But it’s possible a legal action could take much longer. Every step takes time and money. And the money accrues.
Be realistic about how much you can spend on an attorney. Talk to your attorney about options. Some have sliding scales and others have payment plans. You should call around to multiple attorneys and get quotes from them.
Usually, when you get an attorney, you will need to first place a retainer. You will then need to pay for anything outside of that retainer. Ask about the retainer amount as well as the estimates they have for the case, but understand that these are just estimates; no one can truly know how long a case will take or how much effort will be spent.
If you have very little budget, you may want to see a local charity. Sometimes non-profit organizations work with legal aid pro bono and there are low income legal aid attorneys available.
There are some situations in which it’s expected you may not have liquidity. Bankruptcy attorneys often see this as do divorce attorneys. In the case of a divorce, it’s known that you may not have access to cash until the divorce is completed; that means that you’re going to have to have an attorney work on contingency until the situation is resolved.
Making Sure Your Attorney is Reputable
How do you know whether your attorney is trustworthy?
Your first step can be to look online. Look for reviews and testimonials. A single bad review isn’t the end of the world. It’s possible the attorney just rubbed someone the wrong way or had a bad outcome through no fault of their own. But if a lot of people are complaining, that’s a bad sign.
Look out for people who say that they were billed far more than they thought they would be, or that they found it difficult to get in contact with their attorney. Look for complaints against the firm on the Better Business Bureau. Don’t be afraid to ask your attorney if there are specific bad reviews that concern you. They should be able to explain.
While it may seem like going through a lot of steps, it’s absolutely essential you find the right attorney.
Often, whether your case goes well or poorly is going to depend on the skill of your attorney. Your attorney needs to know the relevant laws inside and out and needs to be able to represent you with confidence.
But as long as you do the legwork, check their reviews and testimonials., and otherwise make sure that they communicate well with you, you should be able to find a solid attorney near you.