Choosing a Lawyer. Rarely Undertaken. Always Important.
Choosing a lawyer is like buying a home – a high stakes decision you are rarely called upon to make. Here is our advice on how to make an informed decision.
Ask Trusted People for Recommendations – friends, family, teachers, coworkers, clergypersons, or other acquaintances are likely to have worked with a lawyer and may have useful recommendations.
Look for an Experienced Lawyer – Experience counts – both in years of practice and areas of experience. Realize that while some lawyers are general practitioners, many lawyers concentrate their practice on a small number of fields. Complex estate planning, pension, workers’ compensation, immigration, criminal, and taxation are examples of areas of law to which certain lawyers devote their careers; we can refer you to practitioners in these areas. Federal and state litigation, including defamation, civil rights, and employment, professional licensure and ethics are among the areas in which our lawyers concentrate their practice. Ask prospective lawyers about their experience with your type of legal problem.
Look for an Ethical Lawyer – Ideally, a lawyer should provide you with a written fee agreement, explaining the scope of work, the cost of representation, and whether the client is responsible for expenses. A lawyer should have professional liability (legal malpractice) insurance (if not, the lawyer is required to notify you in writing of its absence). Members of the public may verify the validity of an Ohio lawyer’s license with the Ohio Supreme Court. Lawyer rating guides can be useful, though many factors can contribute to a given rating. We like the peer-based Martindale-Hubbell service, which is known for its long pedigree and its impartiality (they like us, too – we both hold their highest rating). Lawyers often post articles about the law to the world wide web, in order to demonstrate knowledge and attract web searchers. These can help you assess their experience in a given practice area.
Consider Using a Lawyer Referral Service certified by the Ohio Supreme Court – Lawyers who are members of a state supreme court certified lawyer referral service are likely to have undergone screening by the service, including experience levels and the existence of liability insurance. Local bar associations, like the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, monitor the lawyers by surveying clients referred, verifying insurance on a yearly basis, and providing education and public service referrals to callers. Because there are fees for the lawyers who join them, not all attorneys participate in bar referral services.
Glance at Lawyer Advertising – Lawyers may use advertising (e.g., in the telephone books, the internet, television, radio, on billboards or buses or in printed format to communicate with prospective clients. Realize that advertising is expensive and may not reflect the lawyer’s competence or how well they treat clients.
Interview the Prospective Lawyer – Both the lawyer and the client use the initial discussion by phone or in person to evaluate the potential relationship, as well as the merit of the legal claims and the cost effectiveness of any proposed lawsuit. The lawyer may or may charge money for the initial meeting or phone call (we don’t) depending upon the length and detail of the initial contact. and the sort of information requested.