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Your Lawyer: A User's Guide

by Lawrence J. Fox and Susan R. Martyn
This book assumes you have already found a lawyer and want to know what to expect from your lawyer of choice. But it could be that you are reading this book before you have chosen a lawyer. If so, a few tips should help you along the way.

A. Lawyers May Advertise (Up to a Point); Lawyers May Solicit (Up to a Point)

The phone book is filled with ads. I see some on television, too. How does one choose?

Think of how you last found a dentist. Responding to ads might not be the best way to proceed. You might want to try to call friends for a personal referral. On the other hand, some of the very most capable and honorable lawyers advertise extensively. And lawyers' advertisements are tightly monitored by the bar for compliance with the profession's ethical guidelines.

Lawyers are not permitted to advertise results that could be misleading. No two cases are alike. Just because a lawyer snared $100,000 for client A doesn't mean that $100,000 was an outstanding result (maybe the case should have resulted in a $250,000 recovery) or that the lawyer will get you that sum (your claim may be weaker or much stronger). They may not use endorsements by rock stars, politicians, former clients, or anyone else that could create an unjustified expectation. They may not promise results. They must describe their fee arrangements accurately.

So it is perfectly acceptable to use advertisements as a way of deciding which lawyers to contact, but do not use ads as a basis for selecting a lawyer. Preferably, you should not select a lawyer until you have interviewed several lawyers, evaluated them face to face, and assured yourself that the lawyers you are meeting are the lawyers who will actually provide your legal services. The lawyer you select should be the person you are willing to trust with what might be the most sensitive and important matter you've ever dealt with, one who has sufficient experience, drive and good judgment to tackle your problem, and one whose proposed fee arrangement is satisfactory to you.

If I don't know any lawyers, how can I get a personal referral? To tell you the truth the whole thing scares me.

Your feelings are not unique. It is the lawyers' responsibility to set you at ease. And just because you don't know any lawyers is no reason not to seek a referral. Your friends and neighbors may know lawyers. Maybe someone at work has a lawyer he or she can recommend. Don't forget that when your lazy brother-in-law got hurt at work, the lawyer he hired got him enough money to buy your sister a mink coat.

Chapter 3: Paying a Lawyer »