How to find a good lawyer

When shopping for a lawyer, keep in mind that a lawyer’s job is to advise a client about how the law applies to a particular situation. A lawyer can’t make decisions for you; nor can he or she magically solve your problems when the law is against you.

Ask relatives, friends, and co-workers to whom they turn for advice on le-gal matters. Listen closely, but critically, to their accounts of experiences with lawyers. Important questions to ask those who recommend a lawyer are: did the lawyer listen to what they said; explain in easy-to-understand language how the law applied and what options were available; treat them in a prompt, courteous manner; and charge a reasonable fee.

If you receive favorable answers to these questions, call to schedule an appointment with the attorney. Ask his or her secretary the charge, if any; for preliminary consultations. You might describe the general nature of your problem over the phone to determine whether the lawyer practices that type of law. (Most lawyers specialize; so a lawyer specializing in tax matters might not want to represent you in an adoption proceeding.)

If you have no luck in getting recommendations from friends and family, ask community groups or civil liberties organizations for referrals. Or contact your local or state bar association-they provide lists of attorneys according to the type of practice, but you’ll have to investigate the names on the lists to find the lawyer who can best represent your interests.

Once you arrange an appointment with a lawyer, prepare for it. A lawyer’s time is money; don’t waste his or her time and your money because you haven’t thought out what you want to discuss. Be candid with your lawyer; nothing you say regarding a legal matter can be revealed without your permission. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but if you are, or if you otherwise feel uncomfortable with your relationship, resume your search for a lawyer.