After I received the following letter, I reached out again to prolific commenter, “Addie Pray,” our resident legal expert who has given some great law-related advice in the past. She was nice enough to extend some of her superstar legal expertise again to answer the following letter:
Addie Pray writes:
The best way to find a good lawyer is through referrals. Sure, you can find them in the yellow pages, through a local bar association or better business bureau, or on websites like www.avvo.com and www.martindale.com, but I’d stick with referrals. It’s not an exact science, and it will require some work and patience on your end. Here are five tips to consider in your quest for a good attorney that is right for you:
1. Determine what kind of lawyer you need. There are a lot of lawyers out there, and knowing generally what kind of lawyer you need is a good place to start. (LW, your relative needs an attorney who practices family law. Where the divorce is contentious, the assets are complicated, and/or custody is an issue, I think it’s wise to hire a barracuda if you can afford one! Otherwise, a regular old family law attorney will do. As for the abuse, is your male relative being physically abused or threatened? If so, he should get a restraining order and/or consider pressing charges – to do either of these, he should contact the police.)
2. If you already know an attorney (any old attorney), ask if he or she can recommend a good [insert specialty] attorney in your area. Most lawyers know a lot of other lawyers and can recommend someone they personally know to be great, or they can ask other attorneys for referrals on your behalf. I receive firm-wide emails from colleagues on a daily basis asking for referrals for friends. I’ve been known to reach out to attorney friends on Facebook for referrals too, and it works! Be sure to identify who referred you when you place the call. For some reason, attorneys tend to take those calls more seriously, and you’ll get a quicker call back.
3. If you have family members, friends, or even mere acquaintances, who have been through what you’re going through, ask them for referrals too. People are usually more than happy to share their good (and bad) experiences with lawyers. You don’t need to pry about their legal issues or divulge your own. You don’t even need to admit it’s for you when you ask. For example, a simple “I’m looking for a good divorce attorney for a friend, could you recommend someone in town?” will do. You should also ask if the attorney was responsive and knowledgeable and kept them informed, and if they were happy with the results.
4. Gather your referrals and call all of them until you find a lawyer who will take your case and whom you like. Finding the right fit may take some time. Don’t be discouraged by the process, and don’t give up.
5. Consider organizations that offer free legal advice in your community. Are you elderly or disabled or earn low income (and live in Chicago)? You may qualify for assistance at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (www.lafchicago.org), for example. Are you an artist and/or do you work for an artsy non-profit? Check out Lawyers for the Creative Arts (www.law-arts.org). Do you know a big law firm lawyer with pro bono hours to spare? Most big law firms with soul-sucking annual billable hour requirements credit their attorneys 50, 100, or more billable hours each year for approved pro bono work. Many of these attorneys volunteer at organizations like Lawyers for the Creative Arts like I did. To find organizations in your area, Google is a good place to start. You can also get information about free services from your local state and federal courthouses. Hopefully, Dear Wendy’s community of lawyers can identify in the comment section even more ways to find free legal services for those in need.
I wish there were a quicker, more foolproof way to find a good attorney who will take your case, but these steps will help, I hope. I prefer referrals because knowing that an attorney comes highly recommended is often just what clients need to trust their attorneys and feel at ease in what is often a long and painful litigious process.
Best of luck to you!