Clients over the year have often asked me “how do I find the best lawyer in a practice area in Mississippi?
Here are basic guidelines I recommend following when selecting an attorney:
Client reviews on the internet, if the reviews are legitimate, that is a good starting place. Attorneys now are often placing actual client testimony and actual client words on their websites and on lawyer directory websites like AVVO.com.
Experience in handling a case like yours. With a little background research, you can determine whether the lawyer you are seeking has handled a case like yours successfully in the past.
The similarities do not have to solely include the facts, but the general legal claims. For
example, if you have a medical malpractice case, your initial review of the lawyer’s information on the website or internet should include the lawyer’s history. Find out not just whether an attorney has won major cases, but whether the attorney has consistently and recently taken cases like yours and has been successful, whether by settlement or by trial.
Look for certifications, extra training and whether that lawyer is recognized by his peers
as an authority. Has the lawyer taught, lectured, or given presentations to other lawyers on the subject. Another good question would be has the lawyer taught other lawyers on a particular subject in a continuing legal education course. Also, has the lawyer been reviewed by other lawyers and endorsed by other lawyers on websites such as LinkedIn.com.
The workflow and volume of the firm/attorneys. When you have a serious personal injury case you want the law firm to give you full attention. If you call an attorney who constantly advertising gimmicky sales pitches on the TV, you know that attorney probably has a large volume of business. The last thing you want to be is a cog in a giant wheel with you and your case just being a number. This is commonly referred to as a “mill” among legal circles. While this may or may not be apparent on the attorney’s website, these are questions you should ask an attorney when you are considering hiring them. What is your workload like? How many cases are you handling currently in litigation and how many have you actually tried in the last year. When is the last time you tried a case like mine? Where was it tried? What result was achieved? Also, how easy is it to speak with your attorney or receive a return phone call within two (2) days of your call?
Ethical issues and disciplinary actions. The attorney’s record with the Mississippi Bar
Association is not often publicly broadcasted. Has the attorney ever been reprimanded or suspended. These are hard questions to ask. Any attorney seeking to represent and willing to represent you on a contingency fee basis should not have any problem answering these questions fully, openly and honestly. My experience is that most clients want to hire the most ethical lawyer with the highest standards. Clients should be aware that there are strict rules for their attorneys and employees in contacting clients. If you are a loved one was contacted by an attorney without first seeking out that attorney, that it itself is a potential ethical violation.
Selecting an attorney is as simple as writing one letter. You should ask the attorney
what has his experience been with clients firing his firm. It is explained to our clients that once they sign a contingency fee contract, we work at their pleasure and can be fired at any time.
Ethically an attorney is not permitted to speak with a client who is previously represented. The internet can be a valuable resource in determining how to go about firing your attorney if you hired him on a contingency basis. Read the employment agreement/contract. Firing an attorney is as simple as sending them a communication, preferably a letter, stating “your services are no longer needed”. A client is then free to seek the advice of other counsel and begin the interview process again. The attorney interviewing the potential client now has no ethical restraint prohibiting him from discussing a represented party’s case with them.
Comfort level. In personal injury cases client relationships can last years. Your ability
to communicate effectively and your comfort level in your attorney’s office is important and should be considered in weighing your options on which attorney to select. A good question to ask in this category is “what is your relationship with clients like after you have settled their case”? Most clients have had only one opportunity to hire a lawyer in their lives for a very significant injury or life altering course of events. That one attorney should not disappear once the case is resolved/money is distributed.