Lawyer referral services are a great place to start when it comes to hiring an attorney. But those may not be available everywhere. Besides, there are numerous other things you can look into prior to booking an intake interview. In addition to referrals, I have identified four other R’s for a total of five to consider when shopping for legal representation.
If you have already conducted business with an attorney, ask them to refer you to an attorney who specializes in the kind of law you need to address (e.g., family lawyers specialize in divorces and family matters whereas a criminal defense attorney might not). If you do not know an attorney, or if this is your first legal action, ask other professionals, such as doctors, or ask friends for help. Referrals are a firm’s #1 source for new cases.
The unofficial 6th R, and most encompassing, is “research.” It is imperative for you to research your potential council’s reputation in the legal community. Ask if they have been published in a legal journal or have spoken at a legal convention. Having done so is a sign that the legal community at-large respects them; which brings us to out next R.
Check the decisions handed down by the judges who have presided over cases. Have they favored or not favored your potential council’s previous arguments presented before the court? What is their “win-loss” record? It is important to note here, however, that the law is not about winning or losing, it is about finding justice and I only use the term colloquially to help with your understanding of what to look for.
Just like any other profession, recognition is important when it comes to sizing up the competition and attorneys are no different. Ask yourself, “Has such and such firm ever won any awards?” And if so, “What do these awards mean?” Someone winning the ABA’s Lawyer of the Year Award for seven consecutive cycles is undoubtedly respected by his/her peers, but that shouldn’t necessarily rule out giving other attorneys a look. Balance your choice with this in mind, but it should be no more of an equalizer than any of the five R’s.
This one is relatively easy to research. Some firms tend to be braggarts when it comes to results. The kinds of claims which correlate results with success can be deceiving, however; for you need to inquire about how many cases were contracted (e.g., cases passed between firms) and what the firm’s philosophy is on taking particularly difficult cases. Is it about justice or money? Is there confusion between justice and money? The latter you should answer yourself. These are important questions because some lawyers base their success on the amount of money they’ve won from clients while others may base it on ‘justice.’ Getting a feel for results and how a councilor defines them should help you immensely in your decision.
Keeping these five R’s in mind; referrals, reputation, respect recognition and results; will most certainly go a long way in helping you narrow down the list of lawyers capable of helping you with your legal battle. Be sure to corroborate any unusual claims with the State Bar Association, and to always remain transparent when providing your lawyer with the facts about your case.