Nearly every individual and business in Connecticut will need the services of a lawyer at some point. Depending upon the nature of your case or issue, you may have dozens or even hundreds from which to choose, and the process can seem overwhelming.
The important thing to remember is that it is the lawyer’s task to persuade you that he or she is the best one to handle your matter. At the same time, for better or worse, most legal services are really products. As such, the choice should be treated as sort of a combined interview of a potential employee and research regarding a new major product purchase.
– Ask trusted friends, relatives or business associates for the names of lawyers who have helped them with cases such as yours.
– Consult online or traditional print legal directories such as Martindale-Hubbell. Their website allows consumers to search by specialty, and geography, and their “Peer Review” system reflects ratings of both competence and ethical integrity, as determined by surveys of peers. Ethical restrictions on lawyer advertising have been significantly relaxed in recent years. Depending upon the type of legal issue you have, you may see, read or even receive in the mail numerous communications by lawyers soliciting your business. Some include testimonials, though be aware that these may be presented by actors portraying clients. While choosing a lawyer this way isn’t inherently bad, trust your instincts if a lawyer or firm’s claims of success seem extravagant or you find the ad to be otherwise objectionable.
– Lawyers are licensed by individual states. You can readily check a Connecticut lawyer’s license status online at the state Judicial Branch’s website.
? Lawyers are also bound by numerous ethical rules and may be disciplined for violations.
Most (though not all) disciplinary actions against a lawyer will also be reflected on the Judicial Branch’s website.
– Once your list is narrowed down, contact several candidates to schedule initial consultations. Many lawyers offer free or reduced fee consultations, typically of up to one hour.
– Don’t settle on the first attorney you meet.
– Have a list of questions prepared. Areas to ask about include experience level, specialization (including any certifications) and fee arrangements.
– Remember that higher fees don’t necessarily mean better quality service. Unusually low fees may, however, be a sign of a poor reputation, incompetency or other reasons to look elsewhere.
Most reputable firms require clients to sign a retainer or engagement agreement. Don’t just assume the terms are as you have discussed orally. Ask questions about any parts you don’t understand, and don’t be afraid to ask for time to read this agreement over at home.
A number of states have adopted a written disclosure advising clients in plain English of what they have a right to expect from their attorney. New York State’s is known as the"Statement of Client’s Rights". Although Connecticut does not yet require such a disclosure, many attorneys provide it voluntarily. At a minimum, print out and take a copy along to each consultation and ask each potential lawyer whether he or she subscribes to its principles.