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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009

    Default How to Investigate a Lawyer Before Hiring

    So, I found a lawyer who is (potentially) willing to take on my case at a lower fee than the other lawyer who offered to take it. Obviously, cheaper is better, all else being equal, but I need to make sure they are equal first.

    What's a good way to check up on a particular lawyer— that is, to make sure he's in good standing with the bar and to see if and how many similar cases he's taken. (Many people have told me that no one handles my sort of case exclusively, so I'm not surprised to see other types of work in his practice area, but I want to make sure he's had at least some prior experience in this area before I sign a retainer.)

    Also, does anybody know anything about **********.com? Obviously, I'd try to check this person's history and experience and would attend a consultation in his office before making any decision, but does that site bring up any red flags to anyone?

    The state is New York, but I'd prefer not to disclose the nature of the case.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: How to Investigate a Lawyer Before Hiring

    Most bar associations now offer member directories that indicate if a member is in good standing. Sometimes the bar association website or a disciplinary agency website will also provide disciplinary history. There are third party sites (e.g., Avvo) that aggregate information from public disciplinary records, but for accuracy and completeness you're better off going to an official site. You can check Martindale Hubbell to see the lawyer's rating, although often that won't tell you much - lawyers can't buy a rating, but they're only listed if they pay.

    The only way to find out how many "similar cases" a lawyer has had is to ask the lawyer, and the concept of "similar" can be slippery and subjective.

    ********** is a referral service. If you want to try a referral service, I suggest checking the ABA's list.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2010

    Default Re: How to Investigate a Lawyer Before Hiring

    I'm not a lawyer - I'm a consumer. Regular guy. Here's my advice, fwiw. If your state has an on-line court docket, search it with the lawyer as "defendant." You can also check with your state's attorney grievance commission (probably have a list of reprimanded/disbarred attorneys on-line), but I'd take this with a grain of salt. The just retired head of the Attorney Grievance Commission in my state was regarded as a joke - under his tenure, attorney reprimands/disbarments dropped dramatically - "Attorneys have gotten so much more ethical in my tenure than in the past!" Yeah, sure.

    Do not make the same mistakes I did - there are many attorneys who want to charge you hourly rates so you can feel them out - when was the last time you went for a job interview and then sent your prospective employer a bill for your time? Of course, the counter to this would be assessing the case; but in reality it's a two-way street - I've found there are far more bad lawyers than good - I swear some make a living out of consultations; others just want the "easy" cases; you want the guy or gal who really likes what they do and are actually keen on pursuing justice (unless you're just out for revenge, trying to get away with something, etc - then my advice doesn't apply). I spent over $5k interviewing lawyers and settled on the most "highly recommended" one by other attorneys. Who I ultimately fired - he was good at two things - blowing his own horn and sending bills.

    A good lawyer is one you'll happen to catch on the phone, hear you out and take a genuine interest in your case. Stay away from lawyers who lecture you. The best way to illustrate what I mean is through metaphor - let's say you take your car to a machanic because the engine is acting up. You want the mechanic to ask you specific questions about how the car behaves, not the mechanic who constantly asks you why you bought that car in the first place (this is, in my experience, all too common).

    Finally, once you settle on a lawyer, be aware it's your case, and they work for you. Yes, you've hired them to give you the best possible legal advice, but in the situations I've needed attorneys throughout my life, the issues were complex, and although I've lost some battles, I've never lost a war. And I've been more successful with mediocre attorneys who listen to me than brilliant attorneys who don't. Don't be afraid to do your own legwork - many times you'll uncover stuff in legal resources your attorney doesn't know about or maybe didn't consider. Chances are you know your opponent better than your attorney does, and you definitely need to be driving the cart - the lawyer is the horse that pulls it. You can't do it alone, and neither can your attorney. On the flipside, if your attorney offers you advice, listen to it and consider it seriously. You don't have to agree, but you'd be doing your wallet a disservice at least not to listen. Again - I can't stress this enough - you need to be driving; otherwise you'll greatly increase the chances of losing. Personally, I've been able to achieve justice when other lawyers told me just to accept the injustice simply by being my own advocate and constructing my own case, and letting my attorney handle the p's and q's of legal procedure.

    Finally, finally - if one lawyer tells you you don't have a case get a second opinion; if another tells you you don't have a case, then get a third opinion; if the third tells you you don't have a case; well then - you don't have a case.

    For the record, I've needed lawyers for two major issues in my life; one was personal injury (I was rear-ended while stopped and ended up with a broken back), and the other was for divorce/custody of epic proportions. In both cases, I fired two lawyers before seeing things through with the third. In both cases, the third lawyer was meh - ok; but they listened and we won. In both cases, things could have been done significantly better, but before the last firings, I was in danger of losing the cases.

    Good Luck!

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