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What Not To Look For When Hiring A Lawyer.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | June 27, 2011

No. 637

Hiring a lawyer is very personal.  True, you are looking for a professional to perform a task.  But in order to do it, you must establish a relationship.  The relationship between a lawyer and client is like no other. It requires a high level of mutual trust, often to be established on the spot. The lawyer you select should be the best available match for you and for the task at hand.

Here is a short list of the wrong things to consider:

1. Law School Prestige. US News and World Report prepares a lot of lists, and one of them is a supposed ranking of law schools.  Attendance at a high ranking law school doesn’t guarantee that that lawyer is a good match for you or the task.

2. Law Firm Prestige.  You are not hiring a firm, you are hiring a lawyer.  Even though their specialty may be appropriate, large firm lawyers are frequently a poor match for specific tasks.  For example, their hourly rates may guaranty that the fee will exceed the value of the case. On the other hand, if your case requires a lawyer who is supported by junior lawyers and other staff, a large firm lawyer may be a good match.

3. Award Lists like Super Lawyers or Best Lawyers in America.  These “awards” are usually procured by marketing people from larger firms.  They make their presence known through plaques and leather bound books found in the waiting rooms of the awardees.  Once again, they don’t say anything about whether the lawyer is a good match for you.

4. Internet sites that list lawyers by specialty but give very little additional information.  Lawyers pay to be listed on these sites.  Being mentioned on such a site doesn’t mean anything.

5. TV advertising.  A television ad tells you very little about what a lawyer is like.

So, with all of these negatives, how do you find a lawyer? Here are a few ideas.

1. Ask a lawyer to make a recommendation.  Once they hear some of the particulars of a matter, many lawyers know exactly who to recommend.  Be sure to ask why the person is being recommended.

2.  Look on the AVVO website.  AVVO contains a lot of information concerning lawyers who participate.  It may also contain answers to questions that attorney has answered.

3.  Read blogs and issue-specific information on the internet. By reading a blog written by a lawyer, you can learn a great deal about what that lawyer is like.

Once you have selected a lawyer whom you believe would be a good match for both you and the task at hand, call and introduce yourself.  Ask questions.  Listen carefully to the answers.  It is okay to ask about fees up front.  It is also okay to ask how often the lawyer works in the field involved. Let the conversation flow from that point until you are ready to make up your mind.  If you are not offered an engagement letter, ask for one.  It should contain the terms of the attorney’s employment by you, including how he/she charges and including how to disengage.







CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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