Choosing a lawyer is like choosing any other service. It is imperative to do your research and to be clear about what you expect. Take your time over the process and be prepared to trust your gut instinct; if something feels wrong then it probably is.
You will not have a shortage of candidates. The USA is teeming with lawyers and law schools are sending thousands more into the world every year. All you have to do is choose the right one for your needs.
Do your research online
Start your research early. A simple Google search will bring you up a list a law firms but this tells you more about their ability to get ranked in a Google search than their legal prowess. Contact the lawyer disciplinary agency in your state. They will be able to confirm which lawyers are of good standing as a member of the bar. Check out references and testimonials.
Find out their areas of expertise. If you have an immigration issue to contest you need a law firm that specializes in immigration cases but if you have a serious injury that was caused by someone else you need a personal injury lawyer.
It may be useful to ask around amongst your work colleagues or friends and family for a personal recommendation. This is a good place to start but always make your own decisions. It is also useful to talk to lawyers that you know even if they specialize in another field. They will know who is most highly respected in the area of law that you are interested in.
Arrange a face-to-face meeting at the law firm’s office. This enables you to assess if it is easily accessible for you (complex cases require multiple meetings) and if it seems organized and efficient.
You don’t want to be left frustrated by unanswered phone calls and emails.
Set up an interview
Most lawyers will agree to meet you for an initial meeting with no charge. The bad news is that this free meeting is likely to be brief (up to an hour long) so have a list of questions written down. Here are some that you could try out:
What experience do you have in my type of legal problem?
How long have you been practicing in this area of law?
Do you have any special skills or qualifications?
Can you send me references from previous clients?
How often will I be billed?
How often will I be updated on how my case is progressing?
You are unlikely to remember all of the answers to these questions so write them down as well. Take any law firm literature that is offered to you.
After your meeting, take a few days to decide whether the lawyer was compatible with your needs and whether their fees are acceptable to you. You may need to spend a long time working together on your case so it is important that you trust their professional ability.