As lawyers who help people grappling with the aftermath of injuries caused by the negligence of others, we often hear the stories of how people go about trying to choose a lawyer. In our view, too many people rely on the wrong factors in making their decision. Jay shared some great tips on hiring a lawyer here. We thought we’d expand on a few of those, particularly as they related to hiring an attorney in the context of a motor vehicle accident lawsuit.
When it comes to hiring a lawyer, there’s truly no substitute for experience. But not just any legal experience will do. You want to look for a lawyer with specific experience representing clients that faced a similar situation to yours.
While every injury legal situation is unique, you want to find a lawyer with substantial experience with cases somewhat similar to yours.
Unfortunately, this is often easier said, than done. Nonetheless, here are a few tips for understanding the nature and extent of your prospective lawyer’s experience.
Ask them a lot of questions. Interviewing your prospective personal injury attorney is not the time to be shy. Lawyers are bound by rules of professional responsibility. For example, here in Illinois, all lawyers licensed in the state are subject to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct. One of these rules, Rule 7.1, states:
A lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.
In the context of hiring a lawyer, this rule is designed to protect legal services consumers from lawyers who might otherwise mislead them. Put simply, by rule, lawyers can’t lie or mislead potential clients relating to their service.
While this isn’t a guaranteed protection, it serves as a strong deterrent.
Therefore, when you ask a prospective lawyer about their experience, there is at least some protection against the lawyer lying or misleading you.
You should ask your potential personal injury lawyer questions like:
- Do they have experience representing clients in situations similar to yours?
- What was the outcome of those cases?
- Are they willing to take your case to trial if necessary?
- Who are all of the people that will be working on your case?
- What is there experience with cases like yours?
- How long have they been representing people with cases like yours?
- Have they ever faced any disciplinary action?
If you’re looking for a personal injury lawyer in Illinois, you can also research potential lawyers via the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission’s lawyer search tool.
In addition to asking a lot of questions, you should also research your prospective attorney online. Enter their name, firm name, and variations into Google. Do you see happy former clients singing their praises? Do you see negative client testimonials? Most firms should have happy clients on places like Google Maps, Facebook, and Yelp.
Be sure to read several testimonials. Look for testimonials from other lawyers too. Try to distinguish authentic testimonials from those that appear less than genuine.
See what former clients have to say about the service and attention they received from the lawyer.
If you’re an avid social media user, you might also look to see whether you have any mutual connections with the lawyer on Facebook or LinkedIn. If so, ask your mutual connections what their opinion is of the lawyer. This can be particularly useful if a mutual connection has hired the lawyer in the past. Even if they haven’t they may be able to provide some opinion as to the lawyer’s character.
Things to Avoid
Here are some common mistakes that we recommend you avoid in selecting your lawyer:
- Don’t hire your lawyer solely based on an advertisement. Whether it’s television or a Google search ad, hiring lawyers based purely on advertisements is a really bad idea. Just because a lawyer spends money on advertising, doesn’t mean that they’re actually the right lawyer for your situation.
- Don’t hire your lawyer solely based on awards. Many lawyer awards aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. In fact, some lawyers promote awards in which the only criterion for winning the award is money.
At the end of the day, you need to choose a lawyer that you feel you can trust. The process for seeking justice following an injury can take a significant amount of time and energy. You’ll want to have some peace of mind that your lawyer is not only competent to represent your interests, but also provides with the service you deserve.