Good Lawyers

Finding good lawyers isn't impossible when you know what to look for, how to sift out the best attorneys, and ways to help yourself when you decide to hire an attorney.

What Are Good Lawyers?

Good lawyers are legal representatives that work hard to get the legal outcome that's best for you. Finding good lawyers starts with knowing what kind of lawyer you need and where to find one.

Finding a Lawyer

Determine what type of attorney you need

The kind of lawyer you need depends on your situation. These include:

  • Bankruptcy lawyers – cases involving high levels of personal or business finances.
  • Criminal lawyers – cases where the client is accused of illegal activity.
  • Disability lawyers – cases where the client is seeking benefits from the Social Security Administration or Veteran's Affairs.
  • Trust and estate lawyers – cases involving estate planning, probate, obtaining guardianship of a family elder, and Medicaid qualification.
  • Family lawyers – cases concerning family matters like divorce and separation, pre-nuptial agreements, adoptions, and child custody, guardianship, and support.
  • Personal injury lawyers – cases concerning medical malpractice, accidents, injuries that are another person's fault, or dog bites.
  • Employment lawyers – cases involving employment rules, wrongful termination, or a business gets sued for another reason.
  • Corporate lawyers – cases involving starting a business or corporation.

Review online listings of attorneys

Several websites offer lawyer reviews and listings. These include:

  • LegalZoom
  • RocketLawyer
  • Avvo.com
  • LawTrades

Cross-check reviews and listings from more than one website to get a more accurate picture of an attorney and to avoid a biased review from one upset person.

Narrowing It Down

Review Each Attorney's Website

Check out the general information, the blogs, and FAQs. Pay special attention to the attorney's education and experience, as well as any blogs or articles relevant to your situation. Search social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for professionalism.

Personal Referrals

A reference from friends and family will help narrow the list down a bit. Be cautious when deciding which attorney you're going to hire, because making this decision shouldn't be based exclusively on someone's opinion.

Other Referrals

Business owners in the area in question can give recommendations for good lawyers. A referral service may help weed out inexperienced lawyers or those without good standing with their bar association.

Consider a Specialist

Every attorney has an area of expertise. Even a "general lawyer" doesn't know everything about every legal situation. Find a lawyer whose expertise is in the area you need.

Interview the Prospective Lawyers

Essentially, you're hiring an employee; an interview isn't a reasonable request. Most lawyers will spend 30 minutes with you at no cost to discuss your situation. This is enough time to decide if you feel comfortable with this lawyer representing you.

Communication and Promptness

Make sure you understand how to reach your lawyer, even during off-hours, and how long it usually takes to get an answer.

Tour the Lawyer's Office

A stroll through a lawyer's office can tell you a lot. Look for concerns like:

  • Unreturned calls or stacks of messages.
  • Unhappy workers.
  • Vacant offices.
  • Clutter and disorganization.

Once You've Decided

Understand How Attorneys Charge for their Services

Some lawyers, like disability and personal injury lawyers, don't collect money from the client until the case is over, either by settlement or trial. This contingency fee ranges between 30 and 40 percent of the payment to the client.

Other attorneys charge by the hour. Total payment is based on how many hours the lawyer worked on the case. This type of billing is common in corporate cases where litigation is lengthy and complicated.

Negotiate a Fee

Decide on a budget for your case, and negotiate if you feel you're being overcharged. Keep in mind that cases can sometimes go wrong, become complicated, and last longer than expected.

Ask if payment arrangements are possible, especially if you can't pay the fees up front. Some attorneys offer a sliding fee based on earnings for lower-income clients.

Execute an Engagement Letter or Retainer

A retainer or engagement letter is a binding contract between you and your lawyer that lays out your relationship, your case, and the terms. These documents also include all fees you're responsible for, the lawyer's hourly rate, and the smallest increment of time you would ever be charged for. Minimum increments are not less than six minutes and no more than 15.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are advertisements a good place to look for a lawyer?

Ads you hear or see on the internet, radio, TV, newspaper, phone book, or mailings help familiarize you with attorneys that can meet your needs. While they're practical, be aware that ads often represent that particular attorney favorably and don't always represent the truth.

My new job offers a prepaid legal services plan. What can I expect?

Some credit unions, businesses, and worker unions offer a sort of legal insurance for their organization. These plans pay for most (and sometimes all) of the charges incurred by legal consultations, paperwork preparation, and court representation.

Before signing up for a prepaid legal service, make sure you understand the coverage and what your out-of-pocket expenses could be.

I have been accused of a crime and can't afford a lawyer. What can I do?

The U.S. Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to legal representation in any case where incarceration could last six months or longer. Many state constitutions guarantee the right to legal representation for lesser charges.

When you can't afford any aid or an attorney, the judge may appoint a private attorney, or the public attorney will take the case without any cost too you.

If you need help finding good lawyers in your area, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. You'll have access to top lawyers from across the country that hail from schools like Harvard and Yale. UpCounsel attorneys have an average of 14 years under their belts, some working with companies like Twilio, Google, and Stripe.