If you are researching attorneys, you are likely caught up in a legal issue that is effecting your physical and financial well-being. There are thousands of attorneys in Virginia alone, and it can be difficult to tell what is important on an attorney's list of credentials and accomplishments.

BenGlassLaw believes in helping people make smart decisions about their legal issues. You may not need to hire an attorney for your legal claim, but we are here to help with free books, videos, and web articles about various practices of law.

Here are five steps to hiring the right lawyer (which are from our FREE book, The Truth About Lawyer Advertising):

  1. Research your legal problem
  2. Gather names of potential attorneys
  3. Request an information package
  4. Interview your top choices
  5. Evaluate the information you have gathered

Step 1: Research your legal problem

For preliminary research, look into the following:

  • Search the Internet for FAQs (frequently asked questions) about your legal problem
  • Visit lawyer websites
  • Watch the informational videos (NOT the ads) on YouTube
  • Visit other legal websites
  • Visit the library

Remember, not all of the information you find in this research will be useful or even accurate. The point is to understand your legal situation before you talk to a lawyer.

Step 2: Gather names of potential attorneys

  1. Ask for Attorney Referrals. If you know an attorney, talk to them about your legal issue and the type of attorney you need to hire. Most attorneys maintain a network of attorneys with specific experience in a practice of law.
  2. Speak to Friends Who've Hired an Attorney. Ask your network for attorney referrals. Call the lawyer’s office and tell them that “Mary gave me your name, and I am looking for someone who handles XYZ type of case.” Even if that lawyer does not practice in the specialty you’re looking for, they can refer you to a lawyer who does.
  3. Browse Attorney Directories. Do a search for [type of case] in [city, Virginia].  Don’t just type in “personal injury attorney.”  That will return thousands of entries, many from lawyers who may be too far to be useful for you.  Instead, try typing in “car accident attorney in Fairfax, Virginia.”
  4. Look for Attorneys with Specialized Experience. A lawyer who specializes has the experience to do a better job than a lawyer who tries to do everything.

Step 3: Request an information package

Ask them to mail you any books, free reports, CDs, or DVDs they have produced for your type of case. You should do your preliminary research in your home without any pressure, just like you would before making any other important decision.

Most lawyers offer free initial consultations. Consultations are probably not the most efficient way to get information. Instead, ask them to send you anything they would like you to read that would convince you to hire them as your attorneys.

Step 4: Interview your top choices

Remember, the best and most experienced attorneys are often selective in which cases they will handle, and turn away more cases than they accept. You may not even be able to set up an immediate appointment. They should welcome your questions because it shows you are taking steps to educate yourself.

You should ask the following questions:

  • How many years have you been in practice?
  • What experience do you have handling my type of case?
  • Where can I read about your track record in cases like mine?
  • What is the hardest part about my type of case?
  • What is the process for handling my case?
  • Who will work on my case?
  • How will you keep me informed about my case?
  • Have you published guides, articles, or books for lawyers or consumers?
  • Do you carry malpractice insurance?
  • Can I take a copy of the written fee agreement home to study? (There is no standard fee agreement.)
  • If you need an injury, disability, or malpractice attorney, ask if the lawyer spends at least 90% of his time representing individuals against insurance companies in those cases

Step 5: Evaluate the information you have gathered

People have varying opinions on what is most important about hiring a lawyer, but in our experience, clients find the following most helpful:

  1. Consistent past results: While past results are no guarantee of future results, inconsistency in the past is a warning sign.  
  2. Experience:  Lawyers, like everyone else, improve with practice.
  3. Recognition in: Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers together with a “superb” rating from Avvo and a “preeminent” designation from Martindale-Hubbell
Ben Glass
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Ben Glass is a nationally recognized Virginia injury, medical malpractice, and long-term disability attorney