Most people would not have a clue on how to find a good lawyer. If I practiced family law, I could be a rich man because literally dozens of people have asked my wife if I handle divorces. Thankfully, I do not handle marital dissolution cases but I do try to provide some guidance to qualified individuals that I know and trust. Asking lawyers you know is a helpful place to start, but there are many ways to find a good lawyer:
Attorney public records - If you have an attorney that you considering, you can check the attorney's official bar membership record (address, phone number, discipline history, etc.) on the State Bar's web site. I am finding that an increasing number of attorneys have disciplinary actions against their license, so be careful of the attorney that you choose to represent you.
Recommendations - Friends and co-workers can be good information sources if they have used the services of and lawyer. Employers often used attorneys for business related matters and may have many connections with good lawyer contacts. Even other lawyers can often offer recommendations. Business people or professionals such as bankers, ministers, doctors, social workers and teachers are also good sources. My pastor will often ask me to help guide a member of our congregation in the right direction towards a reputable attorney.
Certified lawyer referral services - You can find a State Bar-certified lawyer referral services in the Yellow Pages. In addition, check the listings at the beginning of the "Attorneys" listings, or contact the local bar association. A list of certified lawyer referral services can be found on the State Bar's web site.
Certified Legal Specialists - The California State Bar maintains a list of attorneys who are certified specialists in particular areas of law. The State Bar certifies specialists in 8 areas of law: (1) Appellate Law; (2) Workers' Comp; (3) Tax Law; (4) Family Law; (5) Immigration; (6) Estate Planning; (7) Bankruptcy; and (8) Criminal Law. A list of Certified Legal Specialists can be found on the State Bar's web site.
Free legal aid agencies - Some people may be eligible for free legal aid, depending on income and the kind of legal problem. LawHelpCalifornia.org provides low-income Californians with easy online access to basic legal resources and attorney information. Also, many law schools have free legal clinics.
Advertisements - Telephone book Yellow Pages and newspaper advertisements may provide information about a specific lawyer. Some lawyers and law firms advertise on the Internet. The same laws governing advertising in print, radio, TV and other media apply to the Internet. In addition, sometimes lawyers join together and advertise their services as a group. Beware of lawyers who practice "door law" (i.e. they handle anything that comes through the door).
Dispute resolution programs - Many communities have "dispute resolution" programs as an alternative to using lawyers and the court system. In San Diego, I have successfully used the services of the National Conflict Resolution Center on a number of occasions to settlement difficult cases.
Hiring a lawyer is similar to shopping for a car. You do your research, ask for recommendations and even met with a few attorneys for a consultation, not unlike taking a test drive. Check references and fine someone your are comfortable with and who can speak on your level. Of course, choosing a good lawyer can also be very simple: call me and let me tell you how I can help you!
About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II, Esq., has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.