How to Hire a Lawyer

Leave a comment

January 3, 2014 by sandyonyourside

In my last post, I suggested some questions to consider before deciding whether to represent yourself or to hire a lawyer.  Suppose you decide, for whatever reason, not to represent yourself.  You can still Take Control of Your Case in how you hire and work with your lawyer.   Here are a few tips for finding the lawyer who’s right for you.


It may be fine to hire a barber or a real estate agent based on the recommendation of a friend, but that’s rarely a good strategy for finding the right lawyer.  After all, you wouldn’t entrust your real estate agent to cut your hair, etc.  The day of the all-purpose, generalist lawyer is fading fast. Individual areas of the law are becoming more complex  Think about the kind of case you have.  Is it a criminal case?  A civil case?  Are you trying to evict a tenant? get a divorce?  Are you going up against a corporation?  the Feds?  You need a lawyer who is very familiar with, if not an outright specialist in, your case.  If you’re very lucky, you may indeed know someone who had the exact same type of case and can recommend someone good.  That’s a start.  But even then you’ll want to do more.  Every state, most counties, and many cities and towns have bar associations.  These bar associations have different specialty sections–Family Law, Immigration, Landlord/Tenant, etc.  Spend some time googling these associations and specialty sections to find attorneys who are active there and who specialize in your type of case, and then, of course, google the attorneys.  You want to identify attorneys who have been recognized by their peers, received awards from courts and community organizations and other lawyers, and have published articles (not just website blogs) in your area of law.  You want to locate attorneys with experience and avoid the novices.  Then, once you’ve made a list of possible candidates, think about where your case will be heard.  Local legal customs and cultures often differ from courthouse to courthouse, and you want to find an attorney who frequently appears in the court you’ll be going to.  You may not be able to determine this information from the internet, but it will save you some time if you can by helping you to narrow your list.  And one last tip:  the amount and quality of lawyer advertising has nothing to do with the amount and quality of service you will get from that lawyer.  Don’t be swayed by glitzy lawyer ads.  Do your homework.


Many attorneys offer free initial consultations.  Others charge only nominal amounts.  Assuming that any consultation fee is reasonable (and only you can decide), it may well be worth it to interview as many candidates on your list as you can.  You of course want to get a “feel” for the lawyer.  But you also want to ask some pointed questions, like:

*   How many of [my type of] cases have you handled?  How many are you handling right now?

*   Do you usually represent the plaintiff or the defendant in this type of case?

*   How many of these cases have you handled in [my courthouse, if known]?

*   How often will we be communicating?  (Your lawyer should be willing to update you          on a regular basis.)

*   What types of things will you be doing on your own and what will we work on together?  What can I do on my own to keep costs down and make things go smoothly?  (Beware of “Just leave it to me” answers.  It’s your case, after all.  Look for attorneys who emphasize client collaboration and decision-making, something we’ll talk more about next week.)

*    Do you ever use alternative dispute resolution (mediation, arbitration, etc.) and do you think it might be helpful in my case?

*    Will you be handling my case yourself, or will you be giving it to other attorneys in your office?

*     What range of outcomes may I expect?  (Steer way clear of the attorney who predicts nothing but complete success, unless your attorney is also a prophet.)

*     And final word to the wise here.

     AVOID THE “SHARKS” AT ALL COSTS!!!  I can’t tell you how many prospective clients I met when I was in private practice who told me they wanted a “shark” or a “badass” or a “bitch/bastard” attorney to “stick it” to the other side. I told them what I’m telling you now:  Law is about effective conflict resolution, not revenge or divine retribution or sadistic pleasure.  A lawyer is an advocate, not an instrument of torture.  I guarantee you will pay through the nose for the “shark” — who will use your time and your money to hype you up, over-litigate the case, alienate the judge, and obstruct settlement.  You can and should expect zealous, tough representation from any lawyer you hire, but over-the-top aggression is something you really want to avoid.


Inside information–Lawyers will tell you that they have a “set” fee, usually by the hour.  But in fact they almost all have great leeway in setting their fees, their retainers, and their “costs” (which are extras like the cost a stamps and copy paper and research fees). Even where the attorney works on contingency, you may be able to negotiate the costs and the percentages.  You are in a buyer’s market.  You have leverage to bargain.  Use it.  And get it in writing.

That’s all for this week.  Beautiful and snowy in Boston.

All the best,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Also, it does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author, Sandy Lundy, and any reader or correspondent.

A Blog for Litigants from the Law Office of Sandra E. Lundy

Gavel to Gavel

A review of state legislation affecting the courts

The Federal Criminal Appeals Blog

Just another site

The Huffington Post | The Full Feed

A Blog for Litigants from the Law Office of Sandra E. Lundy

The Australian Dispute Resolution Research Network

The ADR Research Network is a group of Australian dispute resolution academics. Blogging & tweeting high quality, critical dispute resolution scholarship.

dr.julie macfarlane

University of Windsor Faculty of Law

Money Crashers

Personal Finance Blog, Your Guide to Financial Fitness

A Blog for Litigants from the Law Office of Sandra E. Lundy 10 Tips

A Blog for Litigants from the Law Office of Sandra E. Lundy

The Consumer Chronicle

Just another site

Join your tribe. Grow your firm.

ACS Blog

A Blog for Litigants from the Law Office of Sandra E. Lundy

Alliance for Justice

A Blog for Litigants from the Law Office of Sandra E. Lundy

ABA access to justice blog

Keep Current on ATJ and Legal Aid

National Center for Access to Justice

Thou Shalt Not Ration Justice

Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog

Networking for Access to Justice

Legal Blog Watch

A Blog for Litigants from the Law Office of Sandra E. Lundy


Res ipsa loquitur - The thing itself speaks

How Appealing

A Blog for Litigants from the Law Office of Sandra E. Lundy


A Blog for Litigants from the Law Office of Sandra E. Lundy

The Volokh Conspiracy

A Blog for Litigants from the Law Office of Sandra E. Lundy

A Kick In The Butt

Advice on all things FITNESS by Personal Trainer Ariana Dane

Legal Orange

Civil litigation made easier - for idiots, by an idiot.

Limousine Services in Venice | Luxer

Venice Airport transfer | Venice Hotel transfer | Cortina transfers | Limousine Services in Venice | Cab service Venice Airport | Cab Service Venice Cruise Terminal | Noleggio con conducente Aeroporto di Venezia | Luxury transfer in Venice | Exclusive transfers provider in Venice | Vip Airport Service | Marco Polo Airport Service | Treviso Airport Service | Venice Airport Service | Venice Cruise Terminal Service | Venice Train Station Transfer | Venice Mestre Transfer | Venice Mestre Train Station Transfer | Jesolo Transfer | Verona Transfer | Belluno Transfer | Cortina Transfer | Venice to Milano Transfer | Venice to Cortina Transfer | Venice to Treviso Transfer | Venice to Padua Transfer | Venice to Verona Transfer | Venice to Jesolo Transfer | Venice Hotels Transfer || Relais Chateaux Hotels Venice Transfer | Luxury Hotels Venice Transfer | Luna Baglioni Transfer | Palazzo Grassi Transfer | A La Commedia Transfer | Ai Mori D'Oriente Transfer | Al Ponte Antico Transfer | Al Ponte dei Sospiri Transfer | All' Angelo Transfer | Ambasciatori Venice Transfer | Antiche Figure Venice Transfer | Hotel Bauer Venice Transfer | Antony Hotel Venice Transfer | Bologna Hotel Venice Transfer | Bonvecchiati Venice Transfer | Ca Maria Adele Venice Transfer | Ca Pisani Venice Transfer | Ca Sagredo Transfer | Centurion Venice transfer | Cipriani Hotel Venice Transfer | Danieli Hotel Transfer | Europa Hotel Venice transfer | Excelsior Venice Transfer | Hotel Dei Dogi Venice Transfer | Hotel Gritti Venice Transfer | Hotel Holiday inn Venice Transfer | Hotel Gabrielli Venice Transfer | Hotel Laguna Palace Venice Transfer | Londra Palace Venice Transfer | Luna Baglioni Venice Transfer | Metropole Venice Transfer | Monaco Venice Transfer | Novotel Venice Transfer | Palazzina Grassi Venice Transfer | Palace Bonvecchiati Venice Transfer | Papadopoli Hotel Venice transfer | Hotel Rialto Venice Transfer | Russott Hotel Venice Transfer | Villa Margherita Venice Transfer ! Villa Franceschi Venice Transfer | Hotel ai Dogi Venice Transfer | Hotel Rescossa Venice Transfer | Villa Ducale Venice transfer | Hotel Delfino Venice Transfer | Hotel marriott Venice transfer | Molino Stucky Venice Transfer | Sacca Sessola Resort Venice Transfer | Hotel Amman Venice transfer | Hotel All'Ambasciata Venice transfer | Hotel Tritone Venice Transfer | Riviera del Brenta Transfer | Tour Brenta Riviera | Prosecco Wine Taster Tour | Bassano del Grappa tasting Tour | Garda Lake Tour | Venice Car Terminal Transfer | Msc Venezia Transfer | New Holland America | Costa Crociere