When you need an attorney, how do you go about finding one? Most people wait until they’re in crisis mode to start searching. But a frantic search just adds to an already stressful situation.
“The key to finding a great attorney is to start looking right now, before you need one,” says Grant Harken, Operations Manager, Attorneys’ Information Bureau. AIB is a Seattle-based company that provides legal services to lawyers as well as resources to people who need legal help.
“Look at the process of finding a qualified lawyer the same way you do your primary physician. You need someone you can trust and call when needed,” says Harken. “Otherwise, scrambling at the last minute means you might end up with someone with less experience than you need or who is more expensive than your budget allows.”
AIB recommends searching for a law firm that offers a free initial consultation. This gives you a chance to meet in a relaxed environment and see if the chemistry is right.
“Use the free consultation to ask questions about the lawyer’s experience and background,” recommends Harken. “Ask how the attorney’s fee structure works so you know what to expect when the need arises.”
Identifying firms that offer free initial consultations can be very time-consuming. To make it easier, AIB has set up at website at aibinc.net where you can search by specialty and geographical area, then review listings to see which law firms offer free consultations. The site is sponsored by AIB as a way to promote the attorneys for whom it provides services and to foster the Washington State Bar Association’s initiative to promote Equal Access to Justice.
AIB offers one last bit of advice. “Before you make an appointment for your free consultation, do your homework. Confirm the law firm is in good standing by going to the Washington State Bar Association’s website at www.wsba.org. If you have doubts about one firm, find another one.”