There are many types of claims that can be handled by a general attorney. However, when you go to hire an attorney in Virginia for a serious injury case, or because you have been arrested, there is certain research you should spend time on and questions you should ask. We don't say that we are the best attorneys in Virginia for your case but we do believe that putting in the effort to do a little research before signing any papers will be worth it. Your choice of who to hire may be critical in the success or failure of your case.
We are very good at helping people make great decisions about their legal situations and we have always been a leader in educating people about the process of finding and hiring the right lawyer for their case.
There are five steps to hiring the right lawyer (which are from our FREE book, The Truth About Lawyer Advertising - you can get a FREE e-copy of this book here):
- Research your legal problem
- Gather names of potential attorneys
- Request an information package
- Interview your top choices
- 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 collect information and get some idea of your situation before you talk to a lawyer.
- Do you personally know any lawyers in your area? They are aware of the legal market, and will be a good source of names. Even if your legal need is in another state, ask the lawyer you know first. He or she will either refer you to a set of names in another state or give you the name of someone who can.
- Do you know anyone who has used a lawyer? If you do, you can 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.
- Peruse the Internet again. 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 lawyers who advertise in only a few specialties. 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 are better off doing preliminary research in your own home without any pressure, just like you would before making any other important decision.
Most lawyers offer free initial consultations. This is 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 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
People have varying opinions on what is most important about hiring a lawyer, but in our experience, clients find the following most helpful:
- 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