Finding the right lawyer in San Francisco, California can be challenging. The sheer number of attorneys to choose from, and the difficulty of assessing their merits can make the search frustrating. Following a step by step process, however, can help you find the right lawyer for you.
Where to Begin
Start by asking for recommendations from people you trust, such as friends and business colleagues. Your banker or accountant may also have recommendations. You can also look for a lawyer in a directory such this one. A good directory can help you quickly and easily zero in on lawyers in your geographic area whose expertise matches your needs. LawServer, for example, allows you to:
- search for attorneys based on very specific areas of experience
- easily look for attorneys who combine multiple areas of experience, and
- provides links to lawyer Web sites for more detailed information.
Another alternative is a lawyer referral service operated by a bar association. Although bar association referral services do not endorse specific attorneys, there are generally some minimum requirements for membership that lawyers must meet. Typically, participating attorneys must be admitted to practice in the state, have malpractice insurance, and pay the bar association a fee (either a flat fee, a percentage, or both). Bar association referral services generally provide very limited information about attorneys, and do not allow you to compare different attorneys. Instead, they simply provide a referral to one lawyer.
At the county level, the San Francisco Bar Association maintains a lawyer referral service. The San Francisco Bar Association requires that participating attorneys be active members of the State Bar of California and maintain malpractice insurance. The San Francisco Bar Association handles referrals throughout the Bay area.
Interviewing San Francisco Lawyers
Once you have selected a few potential attorneys for your matter, you will move on to an initial consultation. Treat this consultation as a job interview, asking the questions that will help you decide whether the attorney is right for you. Most lawyers provide a free initial consultation, but this is not a requirement. Inquire about consultation fees when you make the appointment to avoid surprises.
Ask the Right Questions
An initial consultation may be as long as one hour or as short as fifteen minutes. It is therefore important to ask relevant questions and keep the interview focused. Present the general details of your issue, but keep it short and factual. Ask the attorney how much experience he or she has with your type of case. Ask when he last handled a similar case and what the results were. Determine his opinion of the strength of your case, but be skeptical of an attorney who assures you victory.
This is also the time to discuss fees and payment structure. Find out how often you will be billed and make sure you will receive detailed statements.
Be Prepared to Walk Away
No lawyer is right for every situation. In addition to finding someone who is an expert about your issue with a reasonable fee structure, your chosen attorney should also be someone with whom you feel comfortable. You and your lawyer may work closely together for a period of months or even years. Therefore, you must feel certain that you are on the same side and share a common outlook on the case.