Hiring a lawyer to handle your injury or disability claim can be one of the most important decisions you ever make. Here are some tips to help you go about making a decision you can be confident about.
- Look for someone with experience in the area you need. Law is like medicine; it’s complicated, and many lawyers specialize in a specific area of the law so they can develop more expertise in that area.
- Check the State Bar of Georgia website. Go to www.gabar.org and search for any lawyer by name. All lawyers licensed to practice law in Georgia must be members of the State Bar of Georgia. Click on the lawyer’s name, and you will see the lawyer’s contact information; where she attended law school; how long she’s been admitted to practice; and whether she has any disciplinary history. If there is a disciplinary history on file, click on that to see what the lawyer was disciplined for. You can also call the State Bar of Georgia at 800-334-6865 and ask for information about the lawyer, including disciplinary history.
- Ask around. Does the lawyer have an established law practice in the community and a reputation in the local community for working hard and communicating with her clients? If people who have hired that lawyer tell you they weren’t able to talk to the lawyer when they asked to, that should be a red flag. Certainly there are times your lawyer isn’t going to be able to talk to you right when you call, but she should return client calls and be available to talk to you in person, if necessary. If folks tell you they had to go get all their medical records and bills and do all the footwork on their case, that should cause you concern as well. In my opinion, that’s part of the work the lawyer’s office should do.
- Thoroughly review the lawyer’s website. Learn what you can about the lawyer, her firm, her staff and her experience.
Ask the lawyer’s office if, when you come in to hire the lawyer, you will meet with the lawyer. I expect to sit across the desk from a client who wants to hire me in a personal injury claim and get to know him and him know me. In fact, we spend 3-4 hours with clients when they come in to hire us. Be wary of anyone who will meet you at a doctor’s office to have you sign a contract or even who has you come to their office to sign a contract but will not spend time with you learning about your case and answering your questions. If they won’t meet with you when you hire them, what kind of service can you expect after they have your case?
- Ask the lawyer if she and her office will be doing the work on the case or if they will be having another firm involved. If another firm will be involved, you need to know about them as well, because you are in effect hiring them too.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is probably the first time you have ever had to deal with this sort of situation and you probably have a lot of questions. You are entitled to get an answer to any question you have before you hire a lawyer. I’ve had people ask me some things I never imagined might be important to a person hiring a lawyer, but I answered the questions since they were obviously important to the person asking them. You are entitled to that.
Lawyer advertising may be a good place to start your search for the right lawyer. But it should never be the sole basis for your decision. Your injury or disability claim is too important.