Choosing a Lawyer

The help of a knowledgeable lawyer can prevent small problems from becoming large ones, give you the peace of mind of defining your problem, and suggest ways to handle the situation.

My suggestion in finding a lawyer is to ask someone who has had a similar legal problem. Once you have identified your legal problem, you will be amazed at the number of friends and acquaintances that have or had a similar problem. Inquire what lawyer they are using and whether or not they are satisfied with him or her. Praise of a lawyer by someone who has used his services is the highest endorsement.

The Maryland State Bar Association has terminated their lawyer referral program. Harford County Bar Association has none, but The Baltimore County Bar Association does at 337-3100. For a fee of $35.00 they will hook you up with a lawyer handling the type of case in which you need assistance. The fee goes to the Bar Association and not to the lawyer. He will give you a free half hour consultation. Any further fee is negotiated between yourself and the lawyer. Another alternative is the Internet, and sites such as lawguru.Com. Choose an attorney that does not charge for the initial consultation. Talk to at least two and maybe three attorneys about your problem. Be direct and ask about fees and how they are to be paid. Criminal cases will normally be a flat fee paid up front. Civil cases are usually taken on a contingent bases, which means that the lawyer only gets a fee if he recovers money, of which his fee is a percent of that amount, usually between 33% and 45%. However, you are usually responsible for all costs associated with the lawsuit whether or not you win. Social Security and Worker’s Compensation fees are set by law.

In looking for an attorney, consider accessibility. Is his office convenient to your home or work? He should be knowledgeable in your area of concern; not necessarily that he has all the answers in his head, but should know where to locate the answer. A good indication is after you pose a question, how long does it take the lawyer to get back with a response?

A lawyer should inspire confidence. He should have the altitude that your problem is one within his realm of expertise and one that you, by talking with him, feel he can solve. He should take the time to explain the law to your understanding and not make you feel rushed, nor appear rushed, as if he is late for his next appointment.

Mr. Scheinin practices law in Maryland and is also a member of the LawGuru Attorney Network.

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