“Ask Your Attorney” Column
About How You Find A Good Attorney Anyway.
Dear Counselor: I’ve never needed an attorney before, and now for the first time, I do. What do I need to know before I get myself into trouble?
Dear Client: The first thing to realize is that attorneys are not all the same — they tend to practice in one or more practice areas, but not all areas of the law. You wouldn’t want someone doing divorce work to hand your patent application. So, you need to find someone who knows what they are doing in the area you need. Ask questions, and investigate. Many attorneys now have websites, which have a lot of information about “what they do” and what they can offer. Ask friends about their experiences, and see whether they can help. Your accountant, banker, and others you have confidence in can offer tips as well. There are rating services for attorneys, such as Martindale Hubbel, Super Lawyers, and Best Attorneys of America, which you can use to check out an attorney’s reputation for both legal expertise, as well as ethics and integrity. And you can do it on your computer at home. Another computer stop is the Wisconsin Court System – Office of Lawyer Regulation and Discipline. They maintain records of whether a lawyer has been disciplined for misconduct. Another thing to check out when you are interviewing a lawyer is whether they maintain professional liability insurance. After all, if they happen to make a mistake, you want to make sure they have insurance to cover it. Don’t be afraid to ask; if they are afraid to tell you, stay away! And you should not feel reluctant to talk cost either. Wisconsin lawyers are subject to rules established by the Supreme Court, and one such rule is that there be written agreements between attorneys and their clients so that everyone knows what the client needs, and the client knows what the lawyer wants to be paid for that service. So, again, it is a bad sign if the lawyer is hesitant at all to discuss these things with you. Like everything else, check out a couple of different attorneys and see what you think. Then make up your mind.
John L. Maier Jr.