When it’s time to hire some legal help, it might be tempting to hire someone you already know. But the lawyer next door, your tax attorney or your friend’s cousin may not be the right way to go. It all comes down to their experience and they type of cases they handle regularly. If your neighbor is a well respected local real estate attorney, and that’s what you need, then go for it. On the other hand, if it’s just for the sake of convenience or the hope that you’ll get a discount, you might be sacrificing your ability to get the best outcome.
Start with the area of law – divorce, bankruptcy, injury, wrongful death, traffic, etc. We usually recommend looking for an attorney who focuses most of their practice in the area you need, rather than someone who does a little bit of everything. A focused practice allows them to truly be knowledgeable and up to date on the law in that area.
Next, consider the length of their experience in that area. It might not be clear on their website profile, so feel free to ask. You should set up a consultation to get to know an attorney before you hire them, and that is a good time to ask questions like this.
In some cases, location matters too. For car accidents, real estate, or family law issues, look for someone who knows the local legal community, which will include courthouse staff, judges and the other attorneys. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it can give them an advantage.
In our opinion, you’re almost always better off searching for an attorney based on area of law and experience rather than convenience. Don’t worry too much about hurt feelings – your neighbor or cousin would probably agree.