September 3, 2021

How to Choose a Lawyer

by Ashley Likens, JD, Columbus Bar Association

Are there non-obvious ways to choose a lawyer? The first two ways that come to mind are asking a friend and asking Google. Both we go to because we trust, right? Should we? Although this is a good place to start, there are more sophisticated ways to consider hiring counsel that fits your needs.

Advertising and Google

Advertisements and marketing connect the public to the profession. It does not mean because you see someone’s ad everywhere that they will be more present in your case or that they have a better reputation than other lawyers elsewhere. Firms decide how much of their money they allocate to their marketing plans. Did you know some firms do little to no marketing through public media (radio, billboards, magazines, newspaper) because they don’t need to gain business that way? That is not to say that firms who market in channels direct to the public do not have great lawyers. You should just always look beyond what the dollar can buy. Even if they aren’t marketing to you with words and pictures in an ad, the firms that pay the most for SEO are the ones that appear on the first search results page on Google. After all, when do we ever go to the second page of Google?

Find Out What Type of Lawyer You Need

Knowing what kind of lawyer you need is an especially important step in finding the right lawyer. Most lawyers these days are not general practitioners who deal with all the common legal issues. However, if you wanted to find one you would look for the lawyers’s name and the firm name to match and no other lawyers (or only a couple) working there. The vast majority of attorneys only practice in an area or a few areas of law. This allows them to focus all of their time on that one area. So knowing what to call those kind of attorneys by doing some research online or by phone will lead you to the right place to look. You can also call your local bar association and ask for a referral. Many bar associations have a lawyer referral service where lawyers must be pre-screened in order to be on that service. You can give the Columbus Bar Association a call at (614) 221-4112 if you are looking for a lawyer.

Learn About the Lawyer's Background

Look into the lawyer’s background. Go to the firm’s website and search the attorney bios. Or call and ask for their CV. A way lawyers can separate themselves from others in the profession and prove their knowledge on a larger scale is by speaking engagements. If they are comfortable speaking in front of an audience it likely translates to the courtroom. Would you want the person litigating your case to be able to teach others through podcasts, local bar seminars, national conferences, news conferences and the like? Lawyers must really know what they are taking about to instruct other lawyers. Speaking engagements are almost always listed under that attorney’s bio on the firm’s website. If there aren’t any, they probably don’t have this experience or haven’t in a very long time.

Learn About the Lawyer's Disciplinary History

If you have a lawyer in mind and following the ethical standards the State of Ohio requires of lawyers is important to you, then check out the Supreme Court of Ohio's website. From the Attorney Directory, type in their first and last name. This profile of the lawyer will show if they have had any disciplinary actions against them for violations of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys.

Talk to the Lawyer

Once you think you have found a lawyer, talk to the lawyer. The conversation with them should tell you what you need to know. Can I trust this person? Can I be open with this person to tell them my needs? Do they have time for me? Ultimately, this could be the person who helps to resolve your issues, so ask them questions about themselves and about the case. You should feel confident leaving the initial consultation that we have a system of justice that can make you heard and protect you. Notice I did not say you would still be confident at all stages…but, in all honesty you are looking for an advocate and counselor to represent you. Don’t forget you can always fire your lawyer if they are no longer meeting your needs! We are in fact, working for you!