Determine your type of case (to match with the right attorney)
Determine your type of case (to match with the right attorney). Do you have a business dispute (business litigation), auto accident (personal injury), doctor was negligent (medical malpractice), trademark, unfair competition, patent (patent or intellectual property attorney), your case is going to trial (trial attorney), business vendor sold bad goods (commercial litigation), etc.
Check with friends, family or business associates
It's always a good idea to check with friends, family or business associates. You may find a really good attorney that way. Or, you may at least find out who not to go with. This should be just a part of your research.
Contact local bar associations
Also, you should Contact local bar associations for referrals and the names, telephone numbers and website information of local attorneys that specialize in the area you are looking for. These resources are typically very helpful (like the Orange County Bar Association). Sometimes, there are even discount programs when going through a local bar association. This information can be easily obtained from the internet.
Take the time to interview a few in person
Compile a list of the potential attorneys and call their offices to arrange a meeting so you can learn about each attorneys qualifications and fee structures. Keep in mind that if you have a contingency case, the rates are not set by law and are therefore negotiable. Ask very specific questions about your particular case.
Is your case the type where there are "Certified Specialists" in the area?
Some types of legal matters have attorneys that are "Certified Specialists". These attorneys typically have extensive experience and training. They have been screened by the licensing authority and have passed rigorous exams. They are the only attorneys that can say they "specialize" in that area.
Some of the areas are:
1. Certified Specialist in Civil Trial Advocacy
2. Certified Specialist in Tax Law
3. Certified Specialist in Criminal Trial Advocacy
4. Certified Specialist in Appellate Advocacy
5. Certified Specialist in Social Security
6. Certified Specialist in Bankruptcy
Get the agreement in writing and read it carefully
Get the agreement in writing and read it carefully. This is a binding contract. Attorneys are required by law (in California) to have written fee agreements if the legal services are expected to exceed $1000. Make sure you understand the difference between "fees" and "costs". Find out if the the dispute you are involved in has an "attorney fee" provision (by statute or contract) as it may significantly affect the outcome. Note that if there is no attorney fee provision provided by contract or statute, each party pays their own attorney fees and costs.
Take the time to try and find an attorney that best fits your type of case and your goals!