02 Oct 2013

Whether it’s for the purchase of your first house or the start of a new business, or whether you’re in a dispute with a tenant or your grandmother has passed away, your lawyer is going to be helping you through some of the best and worst moments of your life. Yet many people spend the same amount of time on finding a lawyer as they spend finding Chinese delivery. Finding a lawyer that’s right for you and your legal situation can be the difference between getting the result you want and tearing your hair out with stress.

Getting a list of lawyer’s names is the easy part – a Google search or a flip through the Yellow Pages will turn up quite a few. Figuring out whether that lawyer suits your needs takes a little more digging.

This article will lay out some simple criteria for finding a lawyer that suits you and your legal issue.

1)      What do you need?

If you have a legal problem in a specific area of law, you may need a lawyer who specializes in this area to assist you. Specialization is even more important if your issue is complex. Knowing whether you need a lawyer with particular skills will significantly narrow the number of lawyers to choose from.

2)      Is the fit right?

This is crucial to a good lawyer-client relationship, but it is often overlooked when people have a situation they feel is urgent. You will be spending a significant amount of time with your lawyer, and they will know many details about your life – it’s important that you like and trust your lawyer!

Most lawyers will be willing to sit down with you for a get-to-know-you meeting with no charge. It’s best to have this meeting in person, so you can get a sense of your lawyer’s body language and demeanour. Trust your instincts. Not all lawyers will be your favourite people to hang out with, but your lawyer should be invested in your problem and be willing to explain things to you.  You should feel like you can trust your lawyer, and that they will represent you well.

3)      Reputation

It’s difficult to tell in your initial meeting whether your lawyer will be punctual, available and detail-oriented. The best way to investigate this is through crowd-sourcing. Ask friends, co-workers, or family if they’ve worked with or heard anything about the lawyer you want to hire. If you have relationships with other lawyers in the area, they can be a good source of knowledge about their fellow members of the bar, as well.

4)      Price

It is often difficult for a lawyer to provide an accurate estimate of legal fees until they are familiar with your legal issue. With that said, if you are constrained financially, it may be worth asking a few questions of a lawyer or their assistant regarding their standard rates for issues similar to yours.

If you are particularly concerned about the cost of a lawyer, consider applying for Legal Aid: http://www.legalaid.ab.ca/Pages/default.aspx

For more information on finding a lawyer, read through this article from the Law Society of Alberta: http://www.lawsociety.ab.ca/public/public_finding.aspx

The Law Society of Alberta also operates a lawyer referral service which may help you in taking the first steps towards finding a lawyer that works for you: http://www.lawsociety.ab.ca/public/lawyer_referral.aspx

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