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SELECTING AN ATTORNEY

In selecting an attorney, great care and deliberation are essential. Most attorneys are extremely well-qualified in the areas to which they devote their practice. Attorneys have been well-trained by law schools, their law firms, and the individual lawyers with whom they have had associations. Most State Bar Associations require not only the successful completion of law school, but they also require the passing of special bar exams to be certain that attorneys understand both the basic precepts of the law which apply to various fields of law and also the appropriate ethical considerations. The State Bar Associations and the local Bar Associations assist in the policing of its members to make certain that attorneys comply with ethical considerations, comply with certain rules and regulations, and correctly apply the practice of law.

In many localities, attorneys are permitted to advertise in the yellow pages for an area of specialization. Often the area of specialization is regulated by the Bar Association. The Association requires that attorneys maintain a skill level which mandates the annual completion of additional study in the area of expertise under which each attorney is listed. For example, if an attorney lists his area of expertise to be Corporation Law, then that attorney must, in certain states, maintain continuing legal education for a set number of hours each year in that area of law. This is often true of other areas of specialization such as Trials/Litigation, Administrative Law, Domestic Law, Criminal Law, Bankruptcy Law, etc. In some instances, a special test is required for proficiency in a particular area of law such as Intellectual Properties, including patents, copyrights and trademarks. Often other areas are internally protected by the government agency which administers a particular area of law. An example would be Securities Law, wherein government agencies regulating securities will require attorneys to meet certain standards and objectives.

Some states and some localities have referral services that will at random refer an individual to an attorney who has developed a certain area of expertise in a specific field, such as Domestic, Bankruptcy, Landlord/Tenant, etc. Additionally, there are certain services that will rank attorneys or rate attorneys. However, a great deal of caution should be used in viewing most of these publications since such ratings may be politically motivated. Some services look at the number of years an attorney has practiced. Sometimes special ratings are given to attorneys who are members of large firms. Therefore, if an attorney is not rated as highly by some of these various services, it does not necessarily mean that the attorney is not extremely skilled or well qualified for that particular purpose. These sources of attorney rankings may be helpful, but should be a secondary matter in the process of selection.

The primary considerations in selecting an attorney should be whether the client feels comfortable with the attorney selected and if he is confident that the attorney is competent in his field of expertise. Much depends upon an individual's judgment, and many times an attorney is hired on the basis of referrals from other individuals who have for one reason or another experienced an attorney/client relationship as a result of work performed. The client must feel very comfortable with the attorney and must feel confident that the attorney selected is the one who can capably handle the client's needs. Some of the questions that would be helpful to most individuals in selecting an attorney include the following:

Selecting an Attorney

Has the attorney handled matters like this one before?
Approximately how many matters like this has the attorney handled previously?
Does the attorney specialize in the area of law in which the client is interested? (e.g. Corporations, Contracts, Domestic, Criminal, etc.)
Will I be charged for my first consultation?
How much does the attorney charge per hour?
How many hours does the attorney believe it would take to complete the task?
Does the attorney object to the client obtaining information about the subject matter before visiting with the attorney? If so, for what reason?
What is a contingent fee, and what percentages does the attorney charge?
Are there any government licensing fees or filing fees for this type of work?
Are there any statutory guidelines for this type of work?
Does the attorney provide the client with a written contract or a letter confirming employment? If so, ask to see an example.
Does the attorney have any references?
When did the attorney graduate from law school?
Has the attorney ever been admonished or cited by an ethics committee? If so, for what reason?
Has the attorney ever had any complaints filed against him? If so, for what reason?
Has the attorney ever lost his license and, if so, for what reason?
Does the attorney object to the client asking these questions? If so, for what reason?
Does the attorney (recognized by his peers for his expertise) receive referrals from other attorneys relative to this particular area of law (Corporations, Contracts, Domestic, etc.)?
Is the attorney licensed in any other state or has he ever been?
Has the attorney ever received any honors; if so, identify and describe the honors.
Has the attorney ever published? If so, identify the publications and area of publication.
Does the attorney advertise? If so, why and where does he advertise?
Has the attorney worked with any other attorneys or firms to whom the client may be referred for evaluation of an attorney?
Does the attorney refer work to other attorneys in other areas of the law where the attorney is not an expert?
Identify some of the seminars the attorney has attended during the past several years and what have been the areas or topics of discussion?

 
     
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