How to Choose a Lawyer

The traditional and still one of the best ways to choose a lawyer is based on a referral from a family member or trusted friend. If someone you trust has had a good experience with a lawyer, perhaps you should consider calling that lawyer to see if he or she handles the type of matter with which you need help. If not, that lawyer may still be able to refer you to another qualified lawyer.

If you need a lawyer and don't know which one to choose to help you with your particular problem, the Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service is available. The service is sponsored and supervised by the Oregon State Bar. There is no charge for this referral system. Call the referral service from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. In the Portland area, the number is (503) 684-3763; from any place else in Oregon, the toll-free number is (800) 452-7636. You will be asked for your name, phone number, and a brief description of your legal problem. You will be given the name and phone number of a lawyer in your geographic area. If you are referred to a lawyer through the Lawyer Referral Service, you will be entitled to an in-office consultation for a fee of $35.

Quick Tips for Hiring a Lawyer

Pro se: Representing yourself is a legal right guaranteed by the U.S Constitution, but it is often a bad idea. People who are unfamiliar with the law can hurt themselves in court. Plus, they may be too close to a situation to see it clearly.

Picking a lawyer: The selection should be based on experience, cost, convenience, and your ability to work effectively and comfortably with the attorney.

Legal fees: It is important to agree in advance on how the lawyer will set his fee, but it may be impossible to determine the exact amount in advance.

Low-cost services: Many cities have public defenders for criminal cases. Legal aid officers handle civil cases. Some private lawyers also do pro bono work or offer reduced rates for indigent clients.

Sometimes a lawyer can't help you. Many problems aren't legal in nature. Other sources of help are the Better Business Bureau, the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, consumer affairs offices, and mediators.

12 Questions to Ask the Lawyer?

Here is a handy checklist of basic questions to ask before you hire a lawyer:

  1. What is your experience in this field?
  2. Have you handled matters like mine?
  3. What are the possible outcomes of my case?
  4. What are my alternatives in resolving the matter?
  5. Approximately how long will it take to resolve?
  6. Do you recommend mediation or arbitration?
  7. What are your rates and how often will you bill me?
  8. What is a ballpark figure for the total bill, including fees and expenses?
  9. How will you keep me informed of progress?
  10. What kind of approach will you take to resolve the matter - aggressive and unyielding, or will you be more inclined to reach a reasonable settlement?
  11. Who else in the office will be working on my case?
  12. Can junior attorneys or paralegals in the office handle some of the administrative work at a lower rate?