I am looking for an independent business litigator who is a patron of the arts, has a brilliant mind for strategy, a passionate, honest, and relentless person, someone of empathy, who is deeply experienced in torts and partnership litigation. I am looking for someone who has their own firm, who is the type to stay up late just because they love what they do, and who can guide me through times of trouble.
I posted this as well, but am having a hard time finding and searching through to those who really shine, inside and out. I am going through the Super Lawyers site now but even that is proving tough.
Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney
With due respect to them, many of the publications and websites that promote "Super Lawyers" are thinly disguised marketing operations that trade endorsements for advertising.
For those lawyers who've chosen to "claim" there profiles here and expand on them with detailed information about their credentials and experience, Avvo.com contains broad and deep information. It's still possible to "game" the site, especially its numerical rating system, and even here you have to view all lawyer self-promotion with a skeptical eye. But it sure beats the phone book.
You might also want to consider restricting your search to lawyers who are board certified in civil trial law. That includes many solo practitioners, some fair number of whom may have abandoned partnerships in "BigLaw" firms in order to escape the massive billing pyramids and overhead common to such firms. I've linked the Texas Board of Legal Specialization's website below. There are many fine lawyers who aren't board certified, but at least with a board certified lawyer you know for sure that they've been examined closely by their peers of both bar and bench, and that they've met a set of very formidable minimum experience requirements for actually bringing disputes to trial.
Without knowing more about the connection of your case to California, I can't speak to that.
Austin is a city RICH, in all senses of that word, in fine courtroom lawyers. You ought not have to look further.
You may, however, want to consider expanding the kinds of fee arrangements that you have in mind: It's the rare commercial case that is so clear-cut and attractive to be worth taking on a pure contingent fee basis, and if you can't put any skin in the game, don't be surprised if most lawyers aren't willing to invest their time on a speculative basis either.
Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney
I blush at the typo above, "there" when I intended "their." Sorry.
Land Use / Zoning Attorney
Mr. Dyer's answer from a Texas perspective was excellent. I will take a stab at answering this from a California perspective. I have been in a similar situation several times, when clients have asked me for a referral to an attorney outside of my practice area. Here is how I would approach the problem.
First, I don't know any way to find an attorney with the specific personality traits you describe. The closest you could come would be through word of mouth. If you know someone who has worked with an attorney in a similar dispute, or if you already have an attorney for some other type of matter, I would start by asking them for referrals.
If that is not an option, or doesn't get you in touch with the right person, I would turn to online resources. As Mr. Dyer suggested, Avvo is a great resource. The other place I typically look is lawyers.com. With either one, you can narrow your search to specific cities, practice areas (for example, on Avvo, you might check both partnership and lawsuits/disputes). Both also reflect ratings by peers and clients.
For any that look interesting, I always check both the firm website (which either lawyers.com or avvo.com will provide), and the state bar website. The latter will provide two critical pieces of information: whether the attorney's license is in good standing, and whether they have any history of disciplinary action by the bar (this is very rare, but I would rule out anyone who does). To check this information on any California attorney, go to the following website:
Finally, when you have the list narrowed down to just a few candidates, I always find it helpful to call and talk to each of them. This is really the only way to get some idea of that intangible "fit" that seems very important in your situation.
I hope this is helpful.
Not always are the attorneys listed in Super Lawyers shamelessly self adverstising. Some lawyers are nominated by their peers and put in the magazine without paying for any advertising on their own. So make sure you aren't just looking at the ads with big pictures. I agree that the board certifications are helpful, as there are certain requirements to be board certified, one being a certain amounts of hours in the Courtroom, which can be very helpful. Dallas has a vast amount of very intelligent and hard working business litigators.