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The Basics: Choosing A Lawyer and Understanding Attorney Billing

By Alex Barthet

Where do you start in choosing a lawyer? The guidelines in “The Basics: Choosing A Lawyer and Understanding Attorney Billing” can help you feel more secure in selecting someone to take your case. Knowing what to look for and what to ask gives you the best chance at a successful, financially sound outcome.

How do I find the best lawyer?

Ask people you trust for recommendations. Get a few names, and then Google those names to make sure you are aware of everything publicly available about those lawyers. Also, use the Avvo.com rating resource to find attorneys by location or by their areas of experience. (Avvo is short for “avvocato,” the Italian word for lawyer.) A lawyer’s experience, reviews, publications, discipline and more go into the rating, so this is a tool worth considering. Also explore Martindale.com, the country’s oldest and perhaps deepest attorney database, which takes into account reviews by clients and peer attorneys in rating lawyers.

Always check a lawyer’s standing with the state bar, which regulates the profession. Make sure he or she is licensed and in good standing. Knowing an attorney was previously suspended for three years is something you want to know before you hire, not after you’ve had an issue yourself.

Explore whether the attorney you are considering has any board certifications, such as immigration or construction. Knowing an attorney has been vetted, has relatable experience and has passed tests on the issues pertinent to your case is worth consideration.

What questions should I ask a prospective lawyer?

Do you specialize in this area of law?  If so, that means you won’t have to pay a lawyer to learn things that are important in your case. For example, a board-certified lawyer focused on construction cases understands the issues relevant to your construction case. It takes time, which translates to your money, for a lawyer to get up to speed on an issue.

How much of your practice is devoted to this area of law? How many cases like mine have you handled? The result in your case might not be the same, of course. But you should know whether your attorney or law firm is recently familiar with the area of law your case involves.

Who will I be working with? You should be comfortable and acquainted with those who have a role in your case. Finding out you have been handed off to an associate isn’t always a bad

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