The site linked here gives far to little information to choose. How should one deal with such a situation? Why does such a site give so little information?
The best method of finding a lawyer varies by practice area and type of matter and type of client. What makes sense for a DUI case to find a lawyer may not make sense if you are looking for a general counsel for a medium sized company.
Word of mouth referrals are a good place to start if you can use them. Many good lawyers don't advertise very heavily because they can get all the work they need from word of mouth referrals, and this also screens out obviously bad lawyers.
Many state bar associations provide lists of attorneys who practice in particular areas. See, e.g. the Colorado Bar Association Find-a-lawyer page. Even if they don't you can look at members of relevant bar committees in the area you need work done.
Sometimes courts also provide lists of lawyers that practice in their court regularly. For example, the Denver Probate Court's in person clerk's office desk has a list of lawyers who work in the probate area.
Looking at lawyers who represented someone similar to you in a court document from a similar case can also be fruitful if you can locate any such documents. In federal courts, if you know of a case, you can user the PACER system to locate court documents listing the lawyers in the case. Some state and local courts make documents filed in those cases available online.
Look at websites offering continuing legal education courses for lawyers and contact lawyers teaching classes in practice areas where you need assistance. Looking for state bar journal articles on practice areas you need and contacting the authors of those journals can also be fruitful.
Another strategy is to call lots of lawyers and ask for referrals from firms that can't take your case because they don't practice in the area where you need assistance. I get multiple cold calls every week in areas where I don't practice and I am routinely asked for referrals and make a good faith effort to provide them when I can. Another plus of this method is that even if you don't get useful legal advice or referrals from a cold call to a law firm, you may get clarification from the person you call about what kind of law or practice area is implicated in your case.
For example, many people who really need probate work self-identify as needing real estate work because they want to clear up title to real estate owned by a dead person. And, a cold call might help focus your search on the right kind of lawyer.
Similarly, you might call ordinary criminal lawyers for your case and find out that you really need a specialist white collar crime lawyer.
In the U.K., hiring a barrister has historically often been intermediated by an individual known as a barrister's clerk, often working with a solicitor for a client to find a barrister for the client.
Why does such a site give so little information?
Historically, lawyer advertising and marketing was heavily regulated. Vestiges of those regulations remain common practice and still are part of the law in some jurisdictions.
In particular, claims of having specializations, special expertise, and high success rates have been closely regulated.
Here are some strategies for finding US lawyers:
- Use Martindale Hubbell to find candidates
- Check Yelp, Google and other review sites for ratings
- Call one or more lawyers that seems experienced and have been working in the type of law and same geographic area and ask them who they would recommend.
- Look for lawyers who have written articles or blog posts on the subject
- Call a big law firm. They are bound to have a few good lawyers. Once you have connections inside the big firm, you keep asking opinions to narrow down on who the superstars are.
- Be aware that often you want a lawyer with the right personality for the job. If it involves litigation, you don't want somebody who prefers peaceful negotiation. If the amount of money involved is small, you don't want somebody that charges $1000 per hour. You have to match the job to the guy.
- If it is criminal matter especially, it is good to get somebody from out of the area. The reason is that a local attorney will want to play nice with the local judges, prosecutors and police. But somebody from out of town won't care about the local system and will be willing to tear them down and embarass them.
- Young hungry lawyers are better when a lot of work needs to be done. Older lawyers are better when things involve judgement and personal connections.
- Law schools are a good indication of quality. Did the guy go to Duke or to some community college? However, beware of legacies. Sometimes a guy will get into a good law school because his daddy is a senator or something. You can always recognize the legacies because they have no publications, light workloads and they don't call you back right away.
- Responsiveness is key. If a lawyer does not get back to you quickly (the same day), ditch them no matter how good they seem.
How to shop for a lawyer
You need to attain at least some background in legal matters. Without a minimum of knowledge, you really have no criteria for scrutinizing a lawyer's competence. Knowledge is power.
You can go to the court in your jurisdiction and ask for case files. Obviously you should seek cases that pertain to the type of legal issue you have in mind. Study them. Take notes. Pay attention to the proceedings dates and for how long a case is dragged in court, because that suggests what that lawyer might do on yours for as long as you have any assets.
Reading the pleadings and motion briefs can initially be intimidating, but as you gain exposure to that type of documents you will gradually identify patterns and internalize concepts. Some types or aspects of litigation are so routinary that you might end up questioning whether disbursing thousands of dollars for work you could do by yourself is a good idea.
Attaining that background also will help you if/when you approach a prospective lawyer. It is important to discern whether the lawyer is only babbling and limiting himself to responses that are generic or too ambiguous.
Online ratings & reviews are unreliable because anyone (including the lawyer's employees, relatives, and friends) can say anything in those websites. This is no different from online reviews for any other type of business.