Hiring a lawyer can be intimidating, confusing and overwhelming. How do you know who is good and who will be a good fit for your business? Unfortunately, there aren’t really any central databases you can go to get reliable information about attorneys and their track records. But here are some ways to gather information about lawyers in order to make an informed decision about who to hire.
The absolute best way to find a good lawyer is to ask friends and colleagues if they have a lawyer they like and have experience with in business matters. Ask your CPA, your insurance agent, your real estate agent, your banker, or other small business owners. Chances are that by asking around that way, you will come up with a list of several names of lawyers. Word of mouth and personal referrals are the best way to find a lawyer. Using someone else’s personal experience with a lawyer is priceless information. If you go this route, make sure to meet with two or three lawyers to determine which one is the best fit for your business in experience, personality, billing rates, etc.
If you haven’t come up with any recommendations through word of mouth, you can check to see which lawyers have be recognized on a local, state or national level for their work. In Washington State, for example, a publication called “Washington Law and Politics” publishes a yearly list of “Rising Stars” and “Super Lawyers” in every practice category. These are people who are chosen by their peers (other lawyers) and a lawyer has to be nominated to be included on this list. The list has evolved into one that carries some weight and credibility in the legal community. There is also a Best Lawyers in America publication that lists attorneys by state and by practice area. While not fool-proof, that kind of information can be useful in finding a lawyer in a specific practice area. Again, make sure you meet with a few lawyers to determine who is the best fit, and ask for references from them.
Another place to look is local bar association attorney-referral service. In Seattle, Washington, we have the King County Bar Association Attorney referral line, where people can call and can get a referral for an attorney who is a member of the referral network. Again, it isn’t fool proof, but it is a place to start. Just know that attorneys who are on lawyer referral lines pay for the right to be included on the list and the referring organization has likely done nothing to verify the experience or qualifications of that lawyer. So, if you go that route, you should ask the lawyer for the names of several references to make sure that this attorney is experienced, responsive and ethical. You can also check with the state bar association to determine if the attorney has been subject to any disciplinary actions.