Finding the right attorney can be challenging. A person wants to ensure an attorney is qualified to handle their case. In addition, a person wants to feel they can work well with the attorney.
One common method many people use to find an attorney is to tap into their network. A person can even make a list of people with whom they are connected who may be able to refer them to an attorney. Or a person may know an attorney, perhaps one they have worked with in the past. They can ask such an attorney for a referral.
The problem with this method is that it may not produce the best results. And one person’s good experience with an attorney does not necessarily mean another person will have the same successful experience.
An attorney referral service can be a better way to access a larger lawyer’s network. An attorney referral service can direct a person to an attorney or several attorneys who may have the necessary expertise and should be qualified to handle the person’s case.
In West Virginia, there is one primary attorney referral service that a person should consult. That is the West Virginia Lawyer Referral Service. Its website can be accessed at https://wvlawyerreferral.org. This is a service that is offered by the West Virginia State Bar. A person can speak with a volunteer lawyer by calling the hotline, whose number is available on the website. Or a person can pose a civil legal question to a volunteer lawyer through the service’s online messaging system. In addition, the website offers people helpful suggestions for finding and working with a lawyer.
This service is free to a person who seeks an attorney. An initial consultation of 30 minutes with an attorney to which this service refers a person would cost about $25. All a person has to do is visit their website, and fill out the relevant information regarding their matter, e.g., which practice area would be involved, the county where the person is located, whether the person has a particular attorney in mind, etc. The service searches its database and sets up an initial consultation.
In addition to the West Virginia State Bar Association’s referral service, the county in which a person lives is likely to have a county bar association that may have a lawyer referral service. Again, this service, if it is available, is likely to be a true non-profit operation that seeks to help people when they have a legal problem by referring them to a lawyer with the expertise the person needs who might be able to represent them.
What If I Cannot Afford to Pay a Lawyer?
The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees representation by a lawyer to anyone charged with a crime if the conviction of the crime could result in imprisonment for at least 6 months. So, if a person has been charged with a crime and does not have the funds to hire a criminal defense lawyer to represent them at their arraignment, they may tell the judge that they cannot afford a lawyer. The judge at the arraignment will appoint a lawyer to represent the person, either a public defender or a private attorney who the government pays.
A person does not have a right to a lawyer paid by the government in a civil case. A person can represent themselves, or they might be able to obtain legal representation through a non-profit organization. For example, in West Virginia, a person would want to contact a non-profit organization, Legal Aid of West Virginia.
Their website can be accessed at https://legalaidwv.org. The legal aid society is a legitimate non-profit organization that provides various legal services at a low cost or at no cost to people who cannot afford legal representation. A person can contact Legal Aid of West Virginia through their website online or by phone number found on the website.
So, if a person has been sued for eviction by their landlord or needs help with a domestic situation, possibly domestic abuse, they should contact Legal Aid of West Virginia.
A person can search online for lawyers, and many entities that claim to offer legal aid solicit customers online. However, they are not true non-profit organizations. Nonetheless, online searches can lead to many lawyers whose services may be what a person with a legal issue needs.
Can My Insurance Policies Help Me Find a Lawyer?
If a person has been sued in connection with an accident that may have happened in their home and they have a homeowner’s insurance policy, their policy may provide them with a lawyer to defend them. The insurance company that issued the policy might pay for the lawyer’s services.
If a person has been sued in connection with a car accident in which they were involved, the company that issued their auto insurance may pay for a lawyer to defend them. In either case, if a person is named as a defendant in a lawsuit in connection with a car accident or an accident in which someone was injured in their home, they should contact the company that issued their car or homeowners insurance.
What Should I Look for When Searching for an Attorney?
Whether you are using a public or private lawyer referral service to find a West Virginia attorney, there are certain basic credentials that a person should look for before they hire an attorney, which include the following:
- Active Bar Status: Check whether the attorney is an officially registered West Virginia State Bar member. This may be one of the most important things a person should check when they work to find the right lawyer for the case.
- Being a member implies that the attorney has fulfilled all of the requirements necessary to be licensed to practice law in the State of West Virginia;
- A person should also check that their membership status states they are still active and licensed to practice law in West Virginia. If a lawyer has an “inactive” status, this means that they cannot legally practice law;
- A member whose status report states that they are ineligible, resigned, or disbarred, means that the lawyer cannot legally practice law in the state of West Virginia;
- Disciplinary Actions: A person wants to check with the West Virginia State Bar Association to see whether the attorney has ever been subjected to any disciplinary actions;
- Specialization: Most lawyers specialize in one or two areas of the law. Of course, a person wants to find a lawyer whose specialization matches the area needed for their problem.
A person wants to prepare for their first meeting if they are referred to a lawyer. They want to gather all the documents relevant to their issue or problem. They also want to prepare the questions they want to pose to their lawyer. In the meeting, the person should take notes about what the lawyer tells them.
Also, a person wants to get a clear understanding of how the attorney would expect to be paid if the person hires them, when they would be paid, and in what amount, e.g., a fixed amount for every hour they work on the case or in the form of a contingency fee, i.e., an agreed percentage of the amount the attorney recovers for the client.
Where Else Can I Find a West Virginia Attorney?
One option is to register for free with LegalMatch.com through our website. Although LegalMatch is not considered an attorney referral service, it uses software that helps quickly match you with the right West Virginia lawyer for your legal matter.
All lawyers in the LegalMatch database are pre-screened and have profiles that visitors may view before reaching out to them. LegalMatch also offers a section where you can read reviews for a particular attorney and gain access to their ratings. The service is quick and easy to use and can lead you to an experienced lawyer for your case.