by Michael Coyne, Associate Dean Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, Massachusetts
With lawyers charging from $200 to $400 an hour these days, a good place to begin your search for a lawyer might be to look into your own mirror.
Basically, there are five things to think about when you consider hiring an attorney. Most important of all, think clearly and calmly about the problem and what outcome you want.
First, consider, “Is it possible to solve this matter myself? The first place always to look for a “lawyer” is in your mirror, to see if you can handle the matter yourself. If the response is “No” and you need to go to law, be objective: Ask yourself, “What can an attorney bring to the table that I cannot?” “What am I willing to, and comfortable with, paying the attorney?”
On a cost-benefit basis you may be better off trying to resolve the matter on your own. Legal fees today typically are $200 to $400 an hour and a major case can run costs up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Second, “Who should I hire?” Talk to friends, relatives, and business associates to get their views. Ask them who they would recommend. Spread the need for names among people you trust. You wouldn’t hire a divorce lawyer to handle a business case. Another method of searching is to contact your local Bar Association’s referral service.
Third, investigate: Check the Web. Even a simple Google search could help you. Scour the Internet and read up about any lawyer you have under consideration. Do you get a good or bad feeling about the lawyer? Also, don’t overlook the Web sites of any individuals or firms you are considering. See what they have to say about themselves. Look at the appearance of the Web site. Does it contain typos and misspellings?
Fourth, When you have narrowed your search, meet face-to-face with the lawyers(plural) under consideration, and be sure to meet with more than one before you make your decision. These meetings should give you some idea of a lawyer’s plan of action and the cost involved.
Fifth, decide if this lawyer is going to fight for what you want. By this time you should have a pretty good idea in mind of what you want in terms of an outcome. Make sure there is synergy between the lawyer about the results you want and the costs of getting those results.
(The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover was founded in 1988 to provide a rigorous, affordable legal education to students who would otherwise be unable to attend law school and to get a law degree. It is widely regarded by legal scholars as an innovator in its field.)