- THE MAGAZINE
In going about selecting an attorney, online search engines are useful, but they can be daunting. The best place to start is to log onto your state's bar association Web site and find the "Business Law" section. You should find a list of attorneys who are members of the state bar's business law section, many of whom will probably be certified specialists in the area of business law, contracts and commercial transactions. You should be able to click on a name and obtain contact information including, should he or she have one, the attorney's Web site (if so, definitely check it out). And unlike going through a local attorney referral directory or program, you won't pay a referral fee (usually around $25).
When you've narrowed your search to three or four attorneys, contact the state bar to ascertain whether the attorney is in good standing or whether the attorney has a prior record of discipline. Next, you'll want to obtain biographical information such as length of time in practice; whether he or she holds a specialization certificate in business law; and whether or not the attorney is a member of his or her local bar (county or regional) in addition to possessing state bar membership.
It is not considered intrusive to determine where the attorney has attended law school, or what the attorney's professional resume consists of, i.e. has he or she published books, treatises or articles on business law matters? Does he or she teach classes or conduct seminars in the area of business law?
You will want to know if the attorney limits his or her practice to business law matters, or is instead a general practitioner covering numerous legal fields, and who therefore may not be as knowledgeable as a specialist?
Finally, during your initial consultation, try and determine how interested the attorney appears to be in your issue. Does he propose a somewhat specific plan and course of action, or do you feel he's simply "shooting the breeze" while vaguely agreeing to assist you? Do you feel understood? Do you relate well, and does the attorney take the time (and appear to have the patience) to answer your questions? Does he explain legal principles to your satisfaction? It is not inappropriate to enumerate a list of expectations you might have as a potential client, e.g. returning phone calls promptly and reasonable billing practices.
Take the time to consider and evaluate your potential counsel. If you are satisfied, by the end of your initial meeting you should leave with a clear understanding of what you've accomplished and where you are going as a team.
(Editor's Note: The information published here is based on general legal principals only, and should not be construed as legal advice, nor as forming an attorney-client relationship. For local statutes and regulations always consult with a local attorney.)