Many people don't worry about seeking legal advice until it becomes necessary or even crucial to find a lawyer suiting your needs
Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer?
--William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)
Unless you already use or have a lawyer on retainer, it may be hard to understand when and why you will benefit by getting legal advice. But knowing when to seek counsel is the key to saving money: you will often spend less paying a lawyer to avoid problems than you will by paying to solve them.
This doesn't mean every situation requires the advice of an attorney - they don't! But many people, businesses, entertainers, professionals, and others, do not make important decisions or moves without the review of an attorney.
For example, if you want to buy a house (and you have never bought one), you might have a lawyer advise you during the negotiations. Do not wait (as most do) until after you sign the documents to find out about the ramifications of what you've done. You can often avoid much headache by consulting a lawyer proactively, before a problem develops, while you are considering what insurance to buy; or ahead of your marriage; before you enter into a contract with a business, or before you decide to "avoid probate" by deeding your home directly to your kids (indeed, this would normally be a very expensive mistake!)
The absolutely, positively, 100% Best Way to find a lawyer
The Best Way to find a lawyer is to ask someone whose opinion you trust, another lawyer, your accountant, banker, family friends, business people you deal with -- most lawyers are used to referring to other lawyers with experience in other areas, and you may already know some lawyer to ask for a referral. You can't do better than to get a personal recommendation.
Advice is seldom welcome; and those who want it the most always like it the least.
--Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield (1694 - 1773)
The information provided on this website is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered. Your access to and use of this website is subject to additional Terms and Conditions.
What if you don't know who to ask, and can't find a referral?
California, and many other states, certify lawyer referral services through the State and/or local Bar Associations. You can look for "State Bar-certified lawyer referral services" in your local phone book, or you can try a web search (but the results may not be local enough.)
Public interest groups
There may be a nonprofit public interest organization or group which can help you get legal assistance. Many such organizations can assist with civil liberties, discrimination, housing, and consumer or public safety problems. You might locate this kind of help by checking with government agencies or bar associations.
Free and low cost legal agencies
Depending on your problem, and probably on your income too, there are several sources for free and low cost legal aid. In non-criminal cases, "legal aid" is the phrase on which to focus in your search. You might check with local law schools or libraries to find some of these. And in a criminal matter, you should try to reach a Public Defender's Office in your area (if there is no Public Defender, a judge will usually appoint a private attorney to represent you without charge.) Many people will find special interest group legal aid institutions to assist them, such as those providing assistance to Latinos or the elderly.
You should at least consider the economics of these plans, which are increasing in availability. You may have already enrolled in one of these plans, or perhaps were joined through your employer, credit or labor union, or an association, or credit card company. Typically, these plans provide you with limited amounts of a lawyer's time or services at a reduced rate, in exchange for premiums paid, like premiums paid for a regular insurance policy. However, "plan lawyers" may not be able to provide you with advice as complete as would be given you by your own private attorney; and your own attorney can be more flexible and creative in finding ways to make the legal work pay for itself.
Perhaps not the best way to find a lawyer:
Lawyers advertise themselves. Most states regulate lawyer advertising, but cannot insure against improper or unethical advertising. It is not recommended to respond to any ad offering legal assistance that fails to state up front the real name of a responsible lawyer (this would strictly include all ads by paralegals purporting to offer attorney services to the general public.)
Can the Internet be of help?
Here's how the web might be of some help in your search for a lawyer: although most lawyers do not (yet) advertise on the web, those that do have much more ad space to work with than in conventional print ads. This means that the smart advertisers can provide you with information of real value at their web sites. To the extent that a lawyer's or law firm's web pages provide useful material, or insight into the lawyers' abilities or experiences, your ability to be an educated consumer of legal services is enhanced. It may not help to let your fingers do the walking, but by all means, do let your mouse do some web-crawling.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is general information on the legal issues presented and should not be regarded as a substitute for direct legal advice from an attorney. The above article is presented as a community service by
www.sandiegolawyerforyou.com with the permission of the author.