Practical tips for choosing an attorney for your family

Finding a law firm is like finding a medical practice. It is rare these days to find attorneys who fly solo, so looking for an attorney who is associated with a law firm will provide your family with a broader base of services and expertise.

Get recommendations

Ask friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers for their recommendations. Ask specific questions regarding why they like their attorney. Questions might include the following:

  • Is your attorney respectful?
  • What was your overall impression after a meeting with your attorney?
  • Did you get to meet the support staff?
  • What kind of personality does the attorney have?
  • Does she answer all your questions?
  • Does he walk you through the process and volunteer information?
  • Does she take phone calls during your time?
  • Does he ramble on and stretch out the billable hours during your visit?
  • Does your lawyer call you back in a timely fashion and answer your email?

Check out the lawyer’s website

When looking at the website of a law firm, read the profiles of all the attorneys, paralegals and of-counsel lawyers. There may be profiles of support staff as well.

Read any blog posts or articles on their website that feature their views, practices, cases and areas of expertise. Pay particular attention to the areas of expertise to discern whether or not the firm actually has the expertise and areas of practice that your family needs.

Additional research on attorneys at law

Do a general web search on the attorney or law practice but be cautious and practice discernment when reading posts about a lawyer. You may find negative posts and comments that may or may not be true. You may want to make some notes from your research to address at your interview.

Martindale-Hubbell is a good place to go to get additional information on attorneys and law firms. Here you can see peer reviews, client reviews, and bar register practice area.

Access your state bar association to search for the firm that you are investigating. Each state has its own licensing board which will also tell you if there are any violations or disciplinary marks for that attorney. Sometimes it is confusing to find the correct agency. Here are some suggestions of terms that you can use in your search engine: [state] attorney disciplinary cases, [state] bar association, [state] attorney licensing agency. Once you get your search results you should be able to pick out the appropriate state agencies.

Interview your potential attorney

Interviewing an attorney is critical before placing a retainer or signing any contracts for services. Not only will you be able to determine if there is a serious personality mismatch, but you will also be able to ask practical questions about the practices and philosophy of the firm. This interview should not be a paid consultation; however, the attorney may ask some general questions about your legal situation and requirements.

Questions to ask in an attorney interview:

  • Does the attorney have experience with your type of legal situation?
  • Does the firm use any of-counsel lawyers that might work on your case?
  • What is the fee structure? Will you be required to pay a retainer? Can you have a copy of the fee policy?
  • Does the attorney have a support staff that will be working on your case? How is support tasks billed?
  • What is the policy on formally beginning and terminating your relationship with the firm?

During your interview with the attorney, you may have many questions not listed above. Never be shy about asking any question that comes to mind. Be aware of communication style and body language. Does the attorney make eye contact? Is he or she dismissive, rude or evasive? Is the attorney overly chatty (remember that you pay for every minute you are talking with an attorney).

Beginning a relationship with a suitable family attorney or law firm can be a positive lifelong experience. Just like a family doctor, attorneys come to know your family and your legal needs the longer you are with them.