Finding the right lawyer is very important and not something you should take lightly. Here are ways to help you find the right lawyer:
Maybe you know a lawyer in a town where you used to live. Perhaps a lawyer who works for a corporation lives across the street. These lawyers may be able to refer you to other lawyers who have experience with your type of problem. You could also ask your friends, co-workers and employers if they know any lawyers. Business owners and professionals such as bankers, ministers, doctors, social workers and teachers might be able to give you the name of a lawyer.
Certified lawyer referral services.
You could call a local State Bar-certified lawyer referral service. This type of service refers potential clients to attorneys. After interviewing you, the referral service staff will match you with a lawyer who is experienced in the appropriate area of the law. (There is usually a small charge for the initial consultation with a lawyer.) For an online list of certified lawyer referral services, visit the State Bar’s Web site.
You also could check the Yellow Pages, newspaper advertisements or the Internet in your search for an attorney. Most lawyers choose not to advertise, other than to list their names, addresses and telephone numbers in the Yellow Pages. But lawyers are allowed to advertise in the Yellow Pages, in newspapers and magazines, on the radio and television, on billboards, on the Internet or any place else—as long as the ad does not contain false or misleading information. Lawyers may use ads to list their fields of law. They also may post their fees. If you decide to call a lawyer featured in an advertisement, keep the ad for reference. If the ad was aired on the radio or television, make notes for your records.
Public interest groups.
Non-profit public interest organizations, such as groups concerned with civil liberties and housing discrimination, may be able to help you. Such groups sometimes have staff lawyers who handle such cases. Others provide legal help solely to groups of people rather than to individuals. For example, they might help you and your neighbors convince your city council to install a traffic light at a busy intersection. To find such an organization, you could try contacting a local bar association, State Bar-certified lawyer referral service or government agency. For example, suppose you believe a landlord is discriminating against you. You might call your city or county housing office for the names of groups that are concerned with your problem.
Client-attorney matching services.
To find an attorney through such a service, you would typically post a brief description of your case on the service’s Web site. Attorney members of the service could then bid on the case by offering you a consultation. The selection of an attorney would be up to you. Such services (also called bulletin boards) are not State Bar-certified lawyer referral services.
Free legal aid agencies.
What if you can’t afford a lawyer? Depending on your income and the nature of your legal problem, you may be able to get free or low-cost legal help in non-criminal cases from a legal services program. Check the white pages of your telephone book to see if such an organization is located in your area. Or, maybe a law school clinic could assist you. Suppose you are accused of committing a crime. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you might qualify for free help from the public defender’s office. Look in the white pages of the telephone book under your county’s listings. What if there isn’t a public defender in your area? In such an instance, a judge would typically appoint a private attorney to represent you free of charge.
Dispute resolution programs.
In addition, many communities have “dispute resolution” programs. These programs can help you and another person “mediate” or work out problems instead of going to trial.
Prepaid legal services plans.
Perhaps you belong to a “legal insurance” plan through your employer, labor union, credit union, credit card company — or as an individual. Your plan may cover the kind of legal work you need — just as medical insurance plans pay certain medical costs. Generally, the premiums you pay entitle you to a certain amount of a lawyer’s time or to a lawyer’s services at a reduced rate.