Updated: May 20
A lot of folks know they need legal help, but don’t really know what to do. Should you get out a phone book and start calling? Do a quick Google search and pick whoever comes up first? Call the people you see on TV or Billboard ads? If you get someone on the phone or email, what should you ask? How do you know you found the right one?
Most people have no idea how to go about hiring a lawyer. Often they pick the one who answers the phone or responds to the email. But that can be like randomly pulling a shirt out of the closet and running out the door. It may not fit, be very uncomfortable, have holes in it, or clash with everything else.
All lawyers went to some type of law school. We all took the same exam to be licensed in Tennessee. We all go to Bar meetings, take continuing education classes, and work hard. However, there are so many complex areas of law that most of us narrow the types of cases we take to things we know quite well. So you first have to figure out what type of case you have. Is it civil or criminal? Does it involve real property or the death of someone? Is it a business matter? If you know the area of practice, you can narrow down your field of potential attorneys quite a bit.
Once you know roughly what area of law your needs fall into, look at their information online. Find out a bit about them from their website, blogs, and sites like AVVO. This should narrow down the list a bit more.
Next, start calling (or emailing) potential attorneys. When you call, very briefly state what your issue is. The attorney will ask you questions to better understand what type of case it is, and whether there are any conflicts of interest issues up front. You may want to ask them a few questions to get a feel for them as a person and a professional. Some attorneys have their assistants review potential cases. Some attorneys do not answer questions by phone and insist on an appointment. Some attorneys take several days to return a phone call. Whatever that first impression is, should be a good indicator of how they would handle representation.
Once you find your list narrowed to a few candidates, you must decide who is the right fit for your needs. Legal representation should be exactly that: Representation. We act on behalf of other people to guide them through a complicated problem and to resolve the issue with the best possible outcome for our client. An attorney-client relationship should be more of a partnership working toward a common goal. Your attorney should explain things to you so that you can understand them. You must be able to trust that this person is capable of doing the job, and that they are going to protect your interests. If you do not get this impression after a phone call or meeting with an attorney, keep looking. You will feel at ease and confident that you will get through your legal problem when you find the right attorney.