Choose the Attorney Who's Right for You

Physician's Money Digest, March15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 5

You wouldn't necessarily think about carryingan umbrella when the sun is out, butyou own one, right? Of course you do,because if you wait to buy an umbrella untilafter it starts to rain, you're likely to get a little wet.

The same is true about having an established, trustedrelationship with a lawyer. You may not need onetoday, tomorrow, or even next month, but you don'twant to wait until you need one before you find one.

Yellow Pages.

Choosing an attorney is a lot like selecting anaccountant, and just as important. Where an accountanthelps make sense of the financial side of life, anattorney helps you navigate the legal jungle, includingissues like buying or selling a home, drafting contractualagreements, dealing with family troubles,and drawing up a will. Those are important issues,which is why selecting an attorney should be givenmore time and thought than simply thumbingthrough the

Thorough Selection Process

The best way to begin your selection process isthrough a recommendation. This could come fromanother professional whose opinion you trust, such asyour accountant, your insurance agent, or even a realestate agent through whom you purchased or sold ahome. A recommendation from a colleague in your fieldcan be invaluable, because you're pretty much guaranteedthat the prospective attorney has a familiarity withthe type of legal matters a physician might encounter.

During your selection process, questions arebound to come up. One of the more prevalent iswhether you should employ a large firm or a smallfirm. There are advantages to both, and a lot dependson the legal issues you need handled. For example, ifthe advice you need is fairly simple and straightforward,a small firm may be the way to go. You're likelyto pay a lower fee, and you will probably receivemore individualized attention. However, it's unlikely asmall firm will have the resources of a large firm. Ifyour legal problems are such that you need the servicesof more than one attorney, it's probably worththe extra dollars to go with a larger firm.

Before you employ the services of any attorney,make certain you understand how you will be billed.Generally, there are three basic fee structures to consider.One is contingency billing, where the attorneytakes a percentage of any amount received after litigation.This percentage should be set in advance ofany work done. Hourly billing is another option, butthe fees can add up fast depending on the amount ofwork needed. Flat fees are an option usually employedfor smaller legal matters, such as drafting a will.

Careful Decisions

Heed the well-known expression that you getwhat you pay for. Basing your decision solely on theattorney with the lowest price could be a big mistake.Also, even if a friend or colleague provides a glowingrecommendation on an attorney, do your ownresearch to be certain. Don't be taken in by fancyoffices in a prime, downtown location. What youwant in an attorney is substance, not style.

Also, don't make your choice based on convenienceof location. That's fine for picking up miscellaneousitems at the local supermarket, but with anattorney you want the best person to address yourspecific needs. If they're located an extra mile or twoaway, so be it.

If you've exhausted your sources and are still limitedin your choices, you might want to visit Martindale-Hubbell's Lawyers.com (800-526-4902 ext 8001). Thesite not only helps you find local attorneys with thespecialty you're looking for, but you can also contactthem via e-mail to get a better understanding of theservices they provide.