If you are researching attorneys, you are likely caught up in a legal issue that is affecting 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.

We have broken down the process into 5 steps with other media included such as links and videos for your added learning benefit. 

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

Make it your mission to fully educate yourself on the in's and out's of your legal case. This will allow you to choose the perfect attorney for your case. There are all sorts of free resources out there for you to utilize. Feel free to browse through our free resources on the BenGlassLaw website and begin your research there. 

When Beginning Your Research:

  • 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
    • law.gmu.edu is a good source for looking up past legal cases and understanding legal jargon. The website has links to other helpful legal sources which gives you many options to browse through
  • Visit the library
    • Although this may seem like a more time-consuming route, it is best to exhaust all of your options when researching your case.

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. The more you understand about your case, the better your chances will have of winning your case. 

Step 2: Gather names of potential attorneys

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.”
  • 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.

Even if you have a referral, go to the attorney's website. Check out the Verdicts and Settlement or Results section and look for a track record of success as well as cases similar to yours. If you need to hire an attorney, do your research. It is shocking that people still hire law firms with bad reviews. A quick search of any attorney should tell you how they treat clients and whether they are the right fit for you. 

Websites like avvo.com and bestlawyers.com will give you reliable, objective reviews of attorneys. Make sure to search by attorney name and not the actual law firm. 

Watch out for flawed sites where lawyers have paid to be listed. On many sites, there is no significant screening of lawyers before listing them. Sometimes the only screens are (1) are you licensed? and (2) do you have a valid credit card? Often, lawyers have paid either an exclusive listing at these sites or for “top spots” or “banner ads.” Sites like ​attorneyfind.com, lawyerfind.net, and perfectlawyerforyou.com are just a few of the sites that should be approached with caution.

Your best bet is to stick with reliable sites like avvo.com and bestlawyers.com

ERISA: For Those Searching For Attorneys For Long-Term Disability Cases

If you plan to file a claim for disability insurance benefits, you need to download this free book right now! Robbery Without a Gun - Why Your Employer's Long-Term Disability May Be A Sham. Employer-provided disability insurance typically falls under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (also known as ERISA).

ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) long-term disability cases are intimidating to appeal and very few attorneys know the process. This will often lead to claimants finding "settlement mills" who put little effort into the case and drain the claimant of their money. The result of very few  attorneys knowing the ERISA process contributes to the ease at which insurance companies can deny long-term disability claims knowing that the claimant has little chance of finding a knowledgeable lawyer in the limited time to appeal the denial.

Luckily, BenGlassLaw has you covered. We started a series of seminars to teach other attorneys how to help ERISA disability claimants whose claims were denied by insurance companies including, but not limited to: Cigna, Prudential, Lincoln Financial, Liberty Mutual, Hartford, Mutual of Omaha, and Lincoln National. Our disability team taught our ERISA disability process to attorneys from all parts of the country. Our goal is to ensure that attorneys obtain more knowledge to help disability claimants in their cases.

Check out How Much Should You Pay an Attorney to File Your Long-Term Disability Appeal? for a better understanding of ways to find the best options for your long-term disability case.

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. Look for a section on the lawyer's website that holds all of their free offers. Here is an example of what it make look like.

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.

Be Wary of "Settlement Mills"

​It is important that you do not settle on the first law firm that accepts you. Research them and make sure that the lawyer is a good fit for you. Be wary of "settlement mills" who will prey on consumers who are not knowledgeable of legal fees and guidelines. They utilize high contingency fees to make more money on small, easier cases. Make sure to look closely and pay attention to the terms of the agreement. If the lawyer is asking for a 40% contingency fee for a small auto accident, then you should probably steer clear of that lawyer and look elsewhere. (For reference: At BenGlassLaw, we start at a 25% contingency fee for auto accidents.)

Here are some questions that you should ask potential attorneys:

  • Are you board certified?
    • Some states have different guidelines and procedures, but in states like Virginia, look for National Board Certification.
  • Are you listed in Best Lawyers in America or Super Lawyers?
  • What is your AVVO rating?
    • avvo.com (objective consumer review site for lawyers)
    • Look for a rating of 9 or higher.
  • Do you have a track record of success? Where can I read about your track record in cases like mine?
  • Do you have real testimonials?
    • Real names, detailed testimonials. "He/she was great and helped a lot" - anonymous (probably not a real testimonial).
  • Will you give me a written, detailed settlement evaluation BEFORE you start negotiations with the insurance company?
    • It is critical to make sure you and your lawyer are on the same page before you begin negotiations so ask other preemptive questions like:
      • Can I take a copy of the written fee agreement home to study? (There is no standard fee agreement.)
      • Do you carry malpractice insurance?
      • How will you keep me informed about my case?
      • Who will work on my case?
      • What is the process for handling my case?
      • What is the hardest part about my type of case?
      • What experience do you have handling my type of case?
  • Do you have a preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell.
    • Martindale-Hubbell is the "Grandfather" of independent and trustworthy lawyer ratings.
    • Martindale.com
  • Will you send me info about my case before I meet with you? and Have you published guides, articles, or books for lawyers or consumers?
    • DVD's, CD's, Books, etc. 
    • Do your homework before you meet with the lawyer​.
  • 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

You might be saying to yourself, "this seems like a lot of work." Well the truth of the matter is that it is work because it is probably important to you. Chances are if you are looking for a lawyer, then something important probably happened or is about to happen in your life. Finding a lawyer has become a high priority for you, so make sure that you research thoroughly and find the best fit for your case. It is always rewarding to be one step ahead. Once you have completed your research and have a solid list of lawyers, begin checking over these 3 things. This should help you find the lawyer you are looking for:

Consistent Past Results: While past results are no guarantee of future results, inconsistency in the past is a warning sign.

Experience: Lawyers, like everyone else, improve with practice.

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