The standard legal disclaimer is that someone should ask a lawyer if they really need legal advice. So how do you find the right lawyer?

How can you judge how "good" a lawyer is? How can you find what is a fair price? Are there other things you should check?

For any lawyers here, how do your clients find you, and what kinds of things should encourage someone to hire you?

  • I wanted to ask "how do I find a lawyer" but I've tried to make it a better question. I am aware it may be bordering on a too-broad opinion, so let me know if it could be improved. I'm envisioning something like this question.
    – Nattgew
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 15:45
  • 1
    I agree that this is an important practical question. And I agree that it's difficult to answer when this broadly phrased. But since that's how most people will come at it, I'm going to take a stab at it. It will likely take a little time to put together.
    – daffy
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 14:58

7 Answers 7


Let me turn this around, how would you find a doctor, plumber or hairdresser?

There is nothing special about lawyers!

Things you should consider when hiring a lawyer are the same as for any other profession or trade:

  • The service you need them to perform
  • Location
  • Value
  • Ability/Expertise
  • References/Referrals

As a simple procedure:

  1. Define your search.

    1. You don't need a big city lawyer for a traffic offence and you probably need a specialist if you are going to lodge a patent.
    2. Consider how far you want to travel for face-to-face meetings. Again, a traffic offence will have you looking in your local area; a patent may involve travel to a major city.
    3. As a general guide a bigger firm will have more expertise available but charge higher fees.
  2. Search

    1. Internet, telephone books, court records, radio ads, word of mouth etc. etc.
    2. Build a shortlist based on your criteria.
  3. Contact your prospectives and ask them:

    1. Can they do the work you need?
    2. What will it cost?
    3. Who are their references?
  4. Check the references!

  5. Really! Check the references!

  6. Decide.


The biggest factor I have found is to find a lawyer who regularly and routinely practices in the narrowest area of the law that is important to you and your case. Specialization is important because the law is so complex and you don't want to be the "training ground" for a new lawyer in your case climbing the "learning curve" in the area for which you need help.

All other factors being equal, of course.


One thing to look for:

Can the lawyer explain things in a way that is clear to you, and seems fair? Do you think that this explanation will seem clear and fair to other people?

  • In contractual matters, the contract is supposed to clearly define the obligations of the parties. The parties are much more likely to follow the deal if the deal seems clear and fair.

  • In criminal matters, the lawyer's explanation needs to be clear to a cop, district attorney, judge, or juror. If his explanation seems fair, you are more likely to get the result you want.

  • In regulatory matters, you want to be able to convince a customer, neighbor, or bureaucrat that your approach to solving a problem is a good idea. If your lawyer's proposal seems clear and fair, you are more likely to get the result you want.

For some specialties (like small-time real estate law, or traffic and DUI law) many lawyers provide sample explanations on websites like www.avvo.com . If avvo has many questions similar to your legal concerns, you might want to consider local lawyers who do a good job (in your opinion) of providing clear answers on the website.

Many lawyers are happy to provide a half-hour or one-hour introductory consultation. Some charge for this service; others do not. Explain your problem. Notice whether the lawyer asks good questions. Notice whether the lawyer's explanation seems clear and fair to you.


Do not be tempted to go with the "lowest cost" option. Like everything, you get what you pay for.

However, one factor you might consider is a lawyer who is willing to take your case on contingency. That will save you money up front. And it's always nice to have counsel who has a vested interest in the successful outcome of your case.

  • Hey, did you mean this to be an edit/addition to your other answer?
    – jimsug
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 10:46
  • @jimsug: My intent was to make this a separate answer that stands on its own independent from the other. Is that allowed and acceptable? Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 10:49
  • Absolutely, just wanted to check and make sure :)
    – jimsug
    Commented Jul 25, 2015 at 10:49

Years ago I asked a question along these lines of a law professor. This is the answer I got:

The problem with lawyers is that you are not guaranteed results, any more than you are when you go to a doctor. You are getting professional advice, which is worth about as much as you trust it. So those are the proxies you look for:

  1. Are the bills detailed?
  2. Does the lawyer explain in plain English what he is doing and why it takes as long as it does?
  3. Does the lawyer have notable recommendations or references you trust?
  4. Is the lawyer willing to let you talk to other clients about their experience with the him?
  5. Has the lawyer had malpractice claims?

I would first ask a lot of question. I don't mind paying for that. Then lawyers that give me most detailed answers are the one that I pick. Lawyers that withhold many critical information should be avoided.

I just want to add something to all the answers.

A lawyer often defraud their clients. Not only they do so, they can do so with impunity. Basically they know the limit between simple misleading and lying.

So what is your case?

If it's a simple case. Hire a cheap lawyer.

Get advice from a second lawyer for every thing the first lawyer said. Many of lawyers' advice may be done to promote the lawyer's best interests rather than the clients.

Lawyers, for example, may

  1. Exaggerate the nature of the case.
  2. Recommend bogus investments to protect assets where his family may get huge referral pay.
  3. Demand success fee on cases that is not even discussed in court.
  • And you need friends
    – user4951
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 8:09

Sadly, finding a good lawyer is very tough. The situation is a lot worse because there are many bad apples out there.

There used to be decent lawyer's directories but those have gone down the toilet. The once best, Martindale-Hubble, is now done by CarsDirect.com.

And, the best lawyers do not advertise.

If you are interested in litigation, one way is to do a legal search (e.g., Westlaw) and see who shows up on the type you are looking for.

You might ask around at a law school if there is one nearby.

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