Finding yourself in need of legal representation can be an incredibly stressful period in your life, no matter the reason. And finding a lawyer—one who not only meets your needs but also cares about you and your case—can seem overwhelming. While determining who will be right for you is not as easy as opening up the Yellow Pages (or turning to Google), it is possible to find a great lawyer, even if you’ve never navigated the legal system before. The following five tips can help you find the representation you need.
Know what you need
The first thing you need to do when finding a lawyer is to determine exactly what kind of lawyer you need. Remember, not all lawyers represent all types of cases. For example, if you are getting divorced, you’ll want to look for a lawyer who specializes in family law, but if you’ve had an accident, you’ll be looking for a personal injury lawyer. Other areas of representation include bankruptcy, immigration, criminal defence, civil rights, and employee rights, among others. Take some time to research the area of law your case falls under, as this will not only help you narrow down a list of lawyers, it will help you understand what it is you need, what to expect going forward, and what sort of questions you may want to ask potential attorneys.
One of the best ways to find a great lawyer is through someone you know. By asking around for a recommendation, you’ll get an honest review of a lawyer’s services, abilities, and even personality—all of which will help you determine who is right for you. Maybe your neighbour had a car accident a few years ago, and he had a great lawyer who helped him secure a much-needed settlement, or maybe your co-worker’s divorce lawyer was impossible to get on the phone. Who knows, a friend of a friend may even be a lawyer who’s willing to represent you at a reduced fee. You won’t know unless you ask!
One lesser known way to finding a lawyer is the use of a referral service. For example, the Law Society of Alberta offers a Lawyer Referral Service, which is a free service that connects you with a lawyer who is suited to your needs. You can request a referral either online or over the phone, and after answering a few simple questions, you’ll be matched with a lawyer for a free consultation. A referral service is also a great option if you have specific requirements, such as a lawyer who speaks a certain language. The only caveat to this avenue is that you may need to be able to pay for your lawyer’s services as not all lawyers accept legal aid (if you can’t, don’t worry; we’ll cover that soon).
When you think that you have a found a lawyer you’d like to work with, ask for a consultation. Most lawyers offer a free consultation (usually a half hour) in which you can meet and determine whether the lawyer can help you and whether you are a good match. This is the time to ask how the law applies to your situation and how it can help solve your problem. You’ll also want to ask how much the lawyer will charge you as well as how long the case may take and how much work it may require. Before going to the consultation, plan what you want to say and gather any important documents you’ll need (the lawyer won’t go over them, but bring anything you’ll want to reference). Prepare a list of questions for the lawyer, including questions about his or her expertise and experience, whether it would be possible to settle out of court, and whether there are any potential difficulties with your case. Be ready to be open and honest, and don’t hesitate to ask for clarification on anything you don’t understand. The lawyer may end up telling you that he or she can’t help with your case, or you might find that you didn’t feel comfortable with him or her. If this happens, don’t despair! This is why consultations are so important; keep looking, and you’ll find the right lawyer for you.
Remember: There’s always help
If you can’t afford a lawyer, you still have options. Start by searching for legal aid clinics in your local community. Such clinics offer legal advice and sometimes even legal representation. You should also consider contacting a local law school, which may offer a student legal aid services clinic. Depending on your case, you might be able to find a charitable organization that offers pro bono legal services, and legal aid, through your province or state, is also available for various legal issues to those who meet certain income requirements. There are many programs out there specifically to help those in need—don’t be embarrassed to make use of them. If you’re looking for a personal injury lawyer or car accident lawyer who has closed thousands of successful claims for Albertans, Assiff Law Office can help. Contact their office for a free consultation.