Monday, October 29, 2012
How to Get A Lawyer
I knew a lawyer that would show up to court in jeans and a turtle-neck, plead his client guilty to whatever crime he happened to be charged with, collect his $5000 or $10,000 for the case, and move on to the next one.
Not once did I see him work out a great deal or fight the case at trial. All he did was show up, plead them guilty, and leave.
How to get a lawyer is one of the most common questions I get asked as a lawyer myself from friends and acquaintances. Before we dive into how to get a lawyer, let's talk about some ways how to NOT get a lawyer:
1. Yellow Pages: The phone book is a relic from the 80's. Tons of attorneys still advertise on there but very few of the cutting edge firms who stay on top of trends, and more importantly for their clients, on top of recent developments in law and business, advertise there. It only works for a few types of law and even those only if you spend an enormous sum of money. If you're facing a complex litigation matter or are charged with murder, you probably want to steer clear of the phone book. If you have a minor traffic offense or something else that doesn't really impact your life and you don't want to spend a lot of money on a lawyer, phone book might be okay. Although, even for that, I would still recommend searching the internet instead.
2. Fliers at the Jail: If you happen to commit a crime and have to be booked into jail, you may see fliers up for lawyers on some of the pin-up boards. Usually, these lawyers have some sort of deal worked out with someone somewhere that allows them to do this, or they literally just went into the jail and put it up themselves. Either way, that doesn't bode well for you. A good lawyer is never desperate: he will have a line of clients waiting for his services based on referrals. This just reeks of desperation.
3. Arrest Magazines: This is a growing unfortunate trend. People wondering how to get a lawyer often look at these magazines because they're available everywhere. The magazines basically take booking photos of people arrested, put them up on the internet for everyone to see, and then try and blackmail the defendant by sending them a letter saying we'll remove the booking photo for $100 or as much as $3000. If this happens to you, hire a lawyer right away and have them send a cease and desist letter to the magazine with a copy of a lawsuit (called a complaint) that the lawyer will file if the photo is not immediately removed. Unfortunately, the problem is that there will be dozens of other criminal magazines that do the same thing and you can't threaten them all. A small number of lawyers advertise in these magazines; anyone associated with these horrible publications is probably not who you want representing you in court.
4. TV and Billboards: I can't tell you how many awful advertisments for lawyers I've seen on TV and billboards. Again, it stinks of desperation. If you're on TV yelling about your services, you probably don't have that many clients. A sure sign that a lawyer is either not good or doesn't have much experience or is difficult to work with.
HOW TO GET A LAWYER: THE GOOD STUFF
So now that we've talked about some of the ways not to get a lawyer, let's talk about how to get a lawyer in positive ways:
1. Internet: Internet is king. Any firm worth their salt should have a heavy presence online. If they don't, they probably aren't keeping up with the times and that spells bad news for you.
2. Referrals: The second best way to find a lawyer. The reason this was second and not first is that for a firm to rank number one on Google takes a lot of time, money and effort. They would have to be a successful firm to do so which means they probably have a long list of happy former clients. But cases vary from one to the next and your Great Aunt Jill might've gotten a good contract lawyer that does terrible for you. But, it's still a great way to find good lawyers despite the problems.
3. Online Reviews: My partner, Joshua Baron, has a perfect 10 out of 10 Avvo score. I haven't seen a single other lawyer that has that (though I'm sure there's a few). He received that score because he wins lots and lots of cases and publishes about them and is respected by his peers. Online reviews can really help you sort out who to go with. One thing to keep in mind though: sometimes, a lawyer can do an excellent job and the client still may go online and write a bad review about them. I once got a criminal case dismissed and my client gave me a bad review because it took me three months to do it and she wanted it done immediately. So take them with a grain of salt.
HOW TO GET A LAWYER: CONCLUSION
In the end, you're going to have to go with your gut and evaluate a lot of different lawyers. I recommend you speak to at least three different lawyers that specialize in your needed area. Ask a lot of questions like how many cases they have handled, how many victories they have, how many losses, and how quickly you could get in touch with them if you needed to.
After all is said and done, picking a good lawyer just comes down to how you interact with them. The number one factor people have stated is important to them when picking a lawyer is likability. The only way you'll know if you like them is to meet with them so make sure you put in a little bit of work before hiring. Otherwise, you might get the guy in the turtle-neck and pay $10,000 for something you could've done yourself.