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 in practice and areas of practice. 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 tax 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, although be aware that there may be many factors that go into a rating. We especially like the Martindale-Hubbell, which is known for impartiality (we have top Martindale- Hubbell ratings). Lawyers often post articles about the law to the world wide web, in order to demonstrate knowledge and attract web searchers.
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. There is a fee for the lawyers to join, so not all lawyers choose to join.
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 charge money for the initial meeting or phone call (we don’t) or may provide the initial contact for free, depending upon the length and detail of the initial contact.