How do you pick a lawyer? Word of mouth? A billboard? The web? My friend especially likes the lawyer ads that she sees on the side of trash cans; she says it really puts the whole attorney thing in perspective. Obviously, she is not a fan of lawyers. But in today’s world, where lawyers can advertise, you are inundated with ads in many different forms: the park bench you sit on, the radio you hear and yes, the trash can you throw refuse in!
The first thing to do is familiarize yourself with the laws in your state. Web sites are great for this. A good website can give you a great overview about the laws in your region. With all the data available on the web, there is no excuse for being uninformed.
Here are some of the best resources to find good lawyers in your area:
Local Referrals and Recommendations
If you know other business people in the community, you may wish to ask them for referrals and recommendations regarding good business law firms and business lawyers in the community. Although you will want to compile these recommendations, you will also want to take them with a grain of salt because you cannot be sure whether the recommendation is an informed one. If you meet lawyers with specialties you do not need, you may wish to ask them for recommendations.
Law Firm Websites
Almost every law firm has a website. Law firm websites vary considerably in their quality and the amount of information they provide. Some law firm websites provide an extremely limited amount of biographical information. Other websites provide complete biographical information, as well as publications, and sometimes even blogs and podcasts.
LinkedIn is a social networking site for professionals. LinkedIn allows a user to post a detailed profile. Many lawyers are on LinkedIn. Some have posted detailed profiles, others have not. LinkedIn is growing, and more lawyers seem to be taking it seriously. As of this time, LinkedIn is hit or miss on information about lawyers, but it is worth checking.
Once you have the name of a particular lawyer you want to research, Google (as well as Bing and Yahoo) can be valuable. In “Googling” a lawyer’s name, one can often find other information about a lawyer, sometimes including links to articles the lawyer has written or links to cases the lawyer has handled. The “advanced search” feature on Google can be useful in narrowing results.
There are many subscription services that provide access to all case law and many legal publications, as well as to news and information. It is possible to use these databases to search for cases that a lawyer has handled. Most business people, however, do not have access to these expensive resources. Thus, I mention them as possibilities for deep research, but they are really not necessary to locate a good lawyer.
In all your investigation, keep in mind that if you hire a lawyer and sign a contract for their services, you are responsible for the fees- plain and simple. The attorney can sue for the unpaid portion. Certainly on the other side of the coin, the attorney has done the service, and should get paid. But you need to know that when you sign up with the lawyer, you are pretty much joined at the hip. It’s not as easy to get rid of your lawyer as it is to hire him/her. So don’t make this decision when you are in the emotional/irrational stage.