Finding and Hiring a Good Lawyer

07/27/2009 | Legal Malpractice

Previously, I posted The Truth about TV Advertising Lawyers.  I later learned I wasn't the first person to point out the obvious.  Aaron Larson, a Michigan attorney, has a website devoted to answering the question "how to hire a lawyer."  

On it he discusses the benefits of hiring a contingent fee attorney, "Many attorneys take certain types of civil suits, particularly personal injury cases, on a "contingent fee" (or "contingency fee") basis, where they do not charge an attorney fee unless they recover money for you. Please note that there are legal costs involved in litigation, and that ordinarily you will be required to repay those costs even if you lose. Almost every state limits contingent fees for personal injury and workers' compensation cases. If your case is potentially worth a lot of money, you may be able to negotiate a reduction of the attorney's contingent fee -- however, the best personal injury attorneys are sometimes able to recover substantially more money for their clients than attorneys with lesser skills, resulting in a greater award to you regardless of the percentage taken by the attorney." (emphasis added)

He goes on to explain "One of the best ways to find an attorney is to consult an attorney you trust. If you do not know any attorneys, ask your friends for names of attorneys they trust. It is not important that the attorney can handle your case -- what is important is that the attorney is likely to comprehend the issues of your case, and is well-positioned to know which attorneys in your community have the skills to handle your case. Even if the attorney cannot personally take your case, he will often be able to refer you to an attorney who can."

He also cautions, "A number of commercial on-line directories claim to screen their attorneys, or claim to list only highly qualified attorneys. Most are not being completely honest. Regardless of their promises, most on-line directories will list any attorney who pays the required fee, and there is absolutely no guarantee that the listed attorneys are qualified to handle your case."

And finally, he issues the same warning I did in my post.  "Should I hire the guy with the 1-800 number, and all of the ads on TV?

Generally speaking, television and radio advertisements are a bad way to find an attorney. Many advertisements are paid for by referral agencies, which collect large numbers of calls and then divide them up between member attorneys. Even when the advertisements are paid for by a law firm, often many of the cases are referred out to other firms who share the enormous cost of advertising. Most of the time, the attorney with the big advertising campaign will not have an office near you. Unless your case is worth a lot of money, you may well find that you are quickly referred to a different firm or that you can't get much attention for your case. There is something very important to remember, when it comes to hiring a personal injury lawyer -- some of the best personal injury attorneys do little or no advertising. They get their cases through "referrals" from other attorneys, due to their reputations for doing good work and getting good results. Should I hire the guy with the big "yellow pages" ad? If you look at the "full page" ads in the yellow pages, you will likely find that there are two types. The first type is an ad for a local attorney, who has chosen to pay for the full page. The second type is an ad for an attorney from outside the area, sometimes from the same attorney who runs the huge television ad campaigns. Typically, the biggest ads are from "personal injury" firms, who hope that their large advertisements will bring them large numbers of injury cases. The better personal injury attorneys and firms typically do pay for full-page ads. However, as was previously noted, some of the best personal injury attorneys do little or no advertising at all. Also, there are many attorneys who buy the largest ad that they can afford, in order to make their practices appear better than they really are. If you look through the yellow pages, you will see that most attorneys claim to specialize in "personal injury" cases. Many of these attorneys have handled very few personal injury cases, and some have never had even a single personal injury case. The yellow pages can provide some degree of confirmation that a particular law firm is established, but even a big advertisement does not certify that a firm is qualified to handle your case."

Hans