How to Choose a Great Attorney in Florida A 6-step practical guide
Are you in need of an attorney? Picking the right attorney is critical to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your future.
In some cases, selecting the right attorney can be the single most important decision you can make in your life. Picking among thousands of qualified candidates is not simple, but luckily we are here to help.
We have created a simple, 6-step process to help guide you when choosing an attorney:
Step 1- Start with a quick search for attorneys near you and look at their online profiles
We built the most comprehensive, user-friendly lawyer directory in Florida. So, all attorney profiles correspond to legal professionals registered with the Florida Bar Association and licensed to practice in the state. However, not all attorneys are created equal.
Our directory search takes into consideration that some attorney profiles have more and better profile content. So, we rank search results in terms of completeness and quality of the information in their profile. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean there are not good attorneys listed in the last few results. However, when searching for your future attorney, it makes sense to start reviewing the first few in the search results, and go from there.
As a practical side-note, if you live outside of a major city, consider looking for local attorneys as well as legal practices in the closest major city.
Step 2- Dig deeper by researching important details about their brand and practice
Select at least 2 or 3 attorneys that caught your eye and review their website and Google or Yelp reviews.
In this exploratory, preliminary search, you are looking for “red flags.” A red flag is anything that doesn’t make you feel comfortable. For instance, here are a few things to look for:
- Incomplete websites. A website is like a digital presentation card, so, imagine handing someone a card that says “coming soon.”
- Out-dated websites. How comfortable you would be with a tech person who doesn’t use email?
- Websites with very little or no information. A website is the perfect opportunity for a lawyer to talk about their practice, reputation and clients. Why would attorneys chose not to do that?
- Website with obvious typos. How comfortable would you be with someone looking after you, when they don’t care about their online image and reputation?
- A large number of negative client reviews. You can’t please everybody. We get it. However, if you can’t please anybody... that might be a red flag.
- No reviews found. Would you purchase a product online, which has been in the market for years, with ZERO customer reviews?
And most importantly look for:
- Disciplinary records. It’s super easy, and critical, that you check the Florida Bar's website to see if any disciplinary actions have been placed against the attorney. All you need to do is click on the link directly from the Lawyer Sphere's profile.
Step 3- Think about staffing, resources and responsiveness
There are 3 types of attorneys: 1) solo practitioners, 2) small firms, and 3) large law firms. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
There is no silver bullet. Selecting the right type of attorney will depend on lots of variables and ultimately on what you are looking for. It will come down to a personal, subjective choice. However, make sure you use all the information at hand to make the best decision possible.
Typically, larger firms have higher fees. However, larger firms typically have more resources. So, clearly there will be a tradeoff between cost and the amount or quality of resources.
If you have an unlimited budget, it doesn’t mean you have to select a large firm (a smaller firm can have more than enough legal staff and offer more personalized attention). Or, if you have a constrained budget, it doesn’t mean you need to go with a solo practitioner (some law firms could offer financing options and payment plans to meet your needs). In the end, you need to pick an attorney that you feel comfortable with, and think they can offer you the best representation possible.
To start, our advice is to open your mind to possibilities. If you think you want to work with a solo practitioner, also think that a small firm could be a good option. In any case, since the tradeoff is resources versus cost, there are 2 red flags you want to be on the lookout for:
- Money talks: when an attorney is interested in you writing a check first and foremost. Law firms are like any other business. You are entitled to be treated with respect, professionalism, and professional courtesy. If you ask a handyman for a quote and he just gives you a number without any explanation, context, or introduction, it should raise some concerns in your mind.
- Lonely: when an attorney doesn’t have enough support staff. Being understaffed would limit any organization’s ability to serve its customers… Lawyers are no different.
Step 4- Pay special attention to the first contact
We suggest always contacting, at the very minimum, 2 or 3 different attorneys before making a decision. Calling or emailing is both OK, and it’s easy since we include information for both ways of contacting attorneys directly from our profiles.
Be on the lookout for a couple of things:
- Responsiveness: if your first call goes to voicemail, that’s OK (especially outside of their business hours). Make sure to leave a voicemail with your name and number. The important part is to receive a call back promptly.
- Effective in-take: your first interactions will probably be with a legal assistant or paralegal. The first line of communication is in charge of gathering some preliminary information and scheduling a follow-up, probably with an attorney. In this first interaction, you are looking for signs of effective communication, and indications that the firm is willing to accommodate to your schedule and sense of urgency.
Step 5- Meet the attorney
We recommend meeting your attorney in person for your first consultation. However, this is not always possible (out of state clients, time constraints, etc). In any case, when talking to an attorney for the first time, we recommend you look for the following:
- Straight talker. An attorney is not a friend. An attorney is also not a psychologist. Look for someone that will give it to you as it is: the good and the bad. Don’t look for someone that will paint a rosy picture above all else. You need to understand the best and worst case scenario with any legal need.
- Qualifications and experience. Ask about relevant experience dealing with needs such as yours. Ask for specifics. Ask multiple questions.
Step 6- Explore your options before deciding
Once you've found some prospects, don't just hire one because they happen to be first on the list. Explore your options. Think about it. In some cases, selecting the right attorney can be the single most important decision you can make in your life.
The next step
The next step is to do your first search typing your city below (leaving the city blank will search in the entire state), followed by a legal practice area (e.g. business, criminal, bankruptcy, family, injury, etc).
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