Ways to Find a Lawyer
What resources are available to help me find a lawyer?
Personal References – Ask the people you trust for a reference. Friends, relatives, clergy, or other acquaintances whose judgment you respect may have had a relationship with a lawyer in the field you need and be able to provide you with a personal reference.
Other attorneys – Like finding a specialist in medicine, the best way to find out the lawyers who have the best reputation for a particular type of law is to consult another lawyer in the same community or a lawyer you know from a different community who practices in the same area of law. Like in medicine, if you have had prior dealings with a general practice lawyer, asking that lawyer for a reference to a specialist in a particular legal field could be very helpful.
Lawyer Referral & Information Service – The MCBA has a Lawyer Referral & Information Service that provides assistance to people who are seeking legal representation. This service matches people who have specific legal problems with attorneys who practice in the particular field of law involved. A trained administrator helps make the appropriate match.
Legal Directories – There are a number of peer review legal directories available on line to assist you in determining how an attorney is rated by his or her peers. These directories are more relevant where you have a specialized type of matter or if you are choosing from among a number of attorneys in a competitive field (such as commercial or personal injury litigation). If you are looking for someone to draft a simple will or to close on the purchase of your new home, these directories will be less relevant.
Martindale Hubbell – A directory of attorneys who rank other attorneys. The oldest and best known directory of its type, this service provides peer ratings for lawyers for legal skills:
“a” (very high to preeminent)
“b” (high to very high)
“c” (good to high);
For ethics: “v” for very good.
Few reputable attorneys are not rated by Martindale Hubbell. If an attorney you are considering is not listed in Martindale Hubbell you should ask why not? Martindale Hubbell also has a “List of Preeminent Law Firms” which includes all firms that have attorneys with “a,v” ratings. To access Martindale Hubbell on line, click here.
Specialty Bar Associations - Most bar associations like the Monroe County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association are open to all attorneys to join. There are other associations that require a certain level of experience and vote of their peers to become a member. Although there are many fine attorneys who are not members of these organizations, admission into one of these specialty bar associations is a sign that the attorney is experienced in the field and enjoys an excellent reputation among his or her peers. These organizations also have websites that can assist in understanding their requirements for admission.
Advertisements, Yellow Pages, Law Firm Websites – Lawyer advertising has become increasingly common on television, radio and highway billboards. The section of the yellow pages dedicated to lawyers’ advertisements is the largest in our local book. Although hearing the name of a lawyer on TV or radio or reading their name on a billboard or in the yellow pages may be a way to start, consumers should be very careful to do more than that before choosing an attorney to represent them. It must be kept in mind that lawyer advertising is a paid message that may or may not be informative about the attorney’s skill and reputation. If you choose to interview an attorney that you have only learned about through an advertisement, you should be sure to carefully question that lawyer before agreeing to retain him or her. Many law firms have their own websites that provide specific information about the firm and its attorneys. Again, these are similar to advertisements and should be used carefully.