The most important issues in selecting the right an attorney are experience, qualifications, and professional reputation. There are many sources of information about attorneys: the Internet, advertisements, friends, other lawyers, etc. However, while each of those can be helpful and informative, the single best way to determine whether a lawyer is right for your case is to talk to the attorney directly. Most attorneys will speak to you on the telephone or in person at no charge to answer basic questions before formal legal representation begins. This process is important because it allows you to determine whether you like and trust the lawyer and it permits the attorney to decide whether he wants to handle your case. Do not be afraid to formally interview your lawyer. This will show the attorney that you take your case (and his job) very seriously. Ask thoughtful, direct questions. Demand straight answers. Consider the information you obtain, and go with your instincts. It is important to be both comfortable with and confident in your attorney. The following questions should assist you in making an informed decision on who will represent you: How much experience does the lawyer have? Do not simply ask how many years the attorney has practiced law; question him about what he has been doing all those years. With regards to experience, quality is as important as quantity. For example, if you need an injury lawyer, ask the attorney how many similar injury cases he has handled, how many of those cases went to trial, what results has he achieved in those cases, etc. If your case is criminal in nature, ask whether the lawyer has worked as a prosecutor, with other law enforcement agencies, or for the judiciary. What are the lawyer’s qualifications? Here, start with questions about education and training; then move onto prior work history; then cover any other related accomplishments. Where did the lawyer go to school? What were his grades? Has he continued his education in the specialized fields applicable to your case? Has he clerked for a judge? Did the lawyer’s past work in the public sector or other law firms result in specialized expertise? Is he active with any law journals, bar associations, or professional groups? Has he published any relevant books, articles, columns, etc.? What is the lawyer’s reputation among judges and other lawyers? This topic is awkward to address and difficult to assess, but extremely important. If you have access to judges or other lawyers, bluntly ask them what they think of the attorney in question. If not, begin by asking the lawyer if he has ever been disciplined by the bar. Also ask the attorney to provide you with his Martindale-Hubbell peer rating. Ideally, you would like to hire an AV-rated lawyer, someone recognized by judges and lawyers alike as having achieved the height of professional excellence in legal ability and ethical standards. If you dedicate yourself to a thorough attorney-client interview focusing on the lawyer’s experience, qualifications, and professional reputation, your chances of choosing the right lawyer for your case will increase tremendously.
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