Large firms also have advantages, after all, many judges and opposing attorneys respect and/or fear large reputable firms for the cases they’ve won, and their ability to influence judgments. Large firms also typically have greater resources in terms of money and manpower to research your case and to craft strategy.
In short, weigh the pros and cons of having a small or a large firm to try your case before signing a contract.
Where to Look for a Lawyer
In addition to the phone book and/or a friend that might recommend a lawyer, there are several other sources for finding a qualified attorney to represent you. Some unions offer representation as does the AARP (sometimes at a discount to its members). In addition, members of the military are often entitled to certain representation, as are certain individuals covered by umbrella and home insurance policies. Finally, the American Bar Association can also help you find a suitable attorney that is licensed in your state.
The Bottom Line
Selecting the right attorney can make your case while selecting the wrong one can doom it, so do your homework.
Does the Attorney Carry Malpractice Insurance? Does the attorney hold a legal malpractice insurance policy? This is a sign of accountability. Anyone can make a mistake and you should not make the mistake of hiring an attorney who does not have malpractice insurance. Remember, in many states, an attorney is not required to carry malpractice insurance. Don’t get burned by an attorney who does not think enough about his or her clients to carry malpractice insurance. Also note that attorneys that are incorporated (often signified by the letters P.C. or A.P.C. after their firm name) must maintain malpractice insurance in the state of California as mandated by the California State Bar Association. Ask What Law School the Attorney Attended : Just like any other school, law schools that are harder to get into have higher standards and only accept the best students. There are four (4) tiers in the law school ranking system with the first tier being at the top and hardest to get into. Ask the attorney where he or she went to law school.
Visit websites of attorneys and law firms. Once you have the names of some attorneys or firms you’re interested in pursuing, check out their website to research further into their background and practice.
Keep in mind that an attorney’s website is also a marketing tool. You are seeing what he wants you to see, so the things he chooses to emphasize or promote on his website give you a good idea of his interests and his professional comfort zone.
Look at any background or biographical information the attorney has listed. You not only want to review this for experience and education in estate planning, you also want to see if the attorney seems like someone you can relate to. For example, maybe you have a beagle, and you notice on one attorney’s bio page that he says he breeds beagles. Since your estate planner will likely be in your life for a long time, it can be important to have common interests.
Pay attention to the attorney’s social media presence. If she has active social media accounts that are updated regularly, or runs a blog where she regularly posts about new developments in the law, you can be assured that she is responsive to her clients and keeps up-to-date on important issues in her practice area.
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