Choosing a Lawyer
Lawyer advertising is almost everywhere. You’ve turned on the television and seen the lawyer commercials: the friendly smiling face of an attorney or a television actor urging you to “Call Now.” But how can you learn about a lawyer’s competence to successfully handle a case?
Fortunately, it’s not hard these days to get reliable information about a lawyer’s qualifications or to make an informed choice when hiring one. Listed below are several different considerations and approaches.
- Hire the best lawyer for your case. Since almost all personal injury lawyers are paid the same way (generally, a percentage of the settlement they secure), the client pays the same fee whether the lawyer is just out of law school or one of the premier trial lawyers in the state. So why not hire a highly skilled lawyer for your case? In the personal injury field, we don’t charge more because we get better results or have more experience.
- Look for a track record of experience and success. Although lawyers can’t typically advertise themselves as specialists, it makes sense to hire a lawyer who focuses his or her practice on personal injury cases. You shouldn’t hire a real estate lawyer for your injury case, any more than you would hire a dermatologist to perform back surgery.
- Ask a lawyer for a referral, if you know a lawyer. Ask your lawyer who he or she would hire as a lawyer if they were seriously injured. Tell the lawyer you want two or three names of the best personal injury lawyers in the community. At Sumner Law Group, LLC we receive client referrals all the time from other lawyers familiar with our winning record.
- Use the internet to find a qualified injury lawyer. There are three reliable rating services for lawyers easily accessible on the internet. Using anonymous surveys, each of these services bases its rating of the particular lawyer or firm on the evaluations by other lawyers in the community.
- Martindale-Hubbell (martindale.com) has been long used by lawyers as a rating and search service. Lawyers listed are rated A, B, or C, according to their skill level, and “V” if they satisfy ethical standards. Your lawyer should be rated either AV or BV. Martindale also publishes a book, titled “The Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers” which, according to Martindale, includes only those selected law practices that have earned the highest rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory and have been designated by their colleagues as preeminent in their field.:
- “The Best Lawyers in America” (bestlawyers.com) is an attorney rating service that selects a few premier lawyers based on their professional reputation among other lawyers. At the website, enter a local city and add the category “Personal Injury” to find a listed lawyer in your community. If a lawyer is listed in “The Best Lawyers in America” he or she is likely to be a very experienced and capable professional. The Best Lawyers selection criteria are described in their website.
- SuperLawyers (superlawyers.com) is a publication of Key Professional Media, Inc., which provides a listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource to assist attorneys and consumers in the search for legal counsel.” Superlawyers.com lists lawyers by state, city and practice area.
- Use the internet to learn more about a lawyer. Most lawyers maintain websites. Go to the website, and read about the lawyer’s qualifications and experience. Search individual websites to find a lawyer listed in “The Best Lawyers in America.” Dig into the website and look for a track record of relevant experience and success. If you are using Google, Yahoo, or some other search engine, limit the search to “personal injury lawyer” or “medical malpractice lawyer” in your community. But be wary of big ads. Just because a lawyer is at the top of the page, doesn’t necessarily make them the right lawyer for you. Instead, use the internet generated list of lawyers and law firms as a starting place. Then go to the individual firm websites. Typically, a law firm’s website will contain information about the firm’s previous trials and results, as well as the qualifications of individual lawyers. Read the firm’s description, the lawyer’s biography, any case examples, and a list of reported decisions.
- Find a lawyer with the resources to prosecute your case. Particularly in more serious cases-such as malpractice or products liability claims-the litigation may go on for years and be very costly. Be sure that your lawyer has experience with major cases, the personnel to staff your case adequately, and the financial means to advance the costs of your case.
- Find a lawyer who will handle your case through the end. Some lawyers sign up personal injury clients knowing they will “forward” their cases to other firms. Ask your lawyer if he or she will refer your case to some other law firm, or stay with your case through trial or settlement.
- Interview your prospective lawyer. Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation and will talk to you about their qualifications and how they would handle your case. Ask him or her about staff and if other lawyers will be working on your case. Even if you like the particular lawyer, take the time to carefully consider your opinion. If you don’t like the lawyer, consult with someone else.
Choosing an experienced injury lawyer shouldn’t be difficult. In most communities there are a number of highly skilled personal injury lawyers. Use the resources above to identify the lawyers who have a track record of success. Choose one that you feel comfortable with. Most personal injury lawyers in Missouri or Illinois will handle a case anywhere in the state.