Some people looking for an attorney have a trusted guide, such as a family member or friend, who can lead them in the right direction towards a competent, dedicated, and honest attorney. Decof, Decof & Barry, P.C. is fortunate to have hundreds of former clients who have recommended their family and friends in that exact way. Without that type of guidance, however, finding the right lawyer to represent you can be overwhelming. Here are some helpful tips when searching on your own for the best attorney to represent you:
Identify the Type of Legal Problem
Were you in a car accident? Was a loved one needlessly harmed by the actions of an inattentive or careless physician? Are you filing for bankruptcy? Were you fired from your job? Once you have identified the type of problem you have, you can start looking for the right lawyer. Many lawyers are general practitioners who handle a wide variety of cases. Your objective should always be to find a lawyer with the most experience with the specific type of legal problem that you have. For instance, there are many lawyers who do “personal injury.” You see them in the Yellow Pages, in television ads and on billboards along the side of the highway. In the areas of professional negligence and catastrophic personal injury where DD&B practices, however, there are relatively few law firms that can not only handle the case, but handle it well.
Research Payment Plans
Some lawyers work on a “retainer” where money is paid by the client up front and the lawyer works until the retainer money runs out, at which point the lawyer must be paid more to continue working. Others work at an hourly rate where bills are generated after the work is done and the client is responsible for paying the bills as they come. For most middle-class individuals and families, neither the retainer nor the hourly rate form of payment is practical. Unless the client is a big corporation, insurance company, or a very wealthy individual, paying a lawyer thousands of dollars up front or as bills come in simply cannot be accomplished on an average income. Because of this reality, DD&B’s fees are contingent upon our success. This means we do not charge our clients a single dollar unless and until we are successful for them. The fees we earn vary depending upon the complexity of the case and work that must be put into it, but it is a percentage of the total recovery. The expenses that are required to be paid to pursue the client’s case are paid by DD&B and only paid back by the client if there is a recovery. If our firm does not obtain a recovery for the client, the firm is responsible for the expenses – not the client. Our willingness to work without payment for years “levels the playing field” and allows injured children and families to obtain justice against even the most powerful and wealthy in this country.
A check of the state’s disciplinary board website will help determine if the lawyer you are considering to hire has ever been in any professional trouble. The Rhode Island Supreme Court’s disciplinary board maintains a website for the public. If a lawyer you are considering hiring has been disciplined, see if you can link to the decision from the court and determine what the punishment was. While a professional sanction does not automatically mean that you should not hire the lawyer, you should be fully informed about the situation before you go to speak with him or her. You can also check Martindale Hubbell, which maintains biographies, reviews, and ratings of many lawyers. Another place to look if you are searching for lawyers who are respected by their peers is Super Lawyers, a rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. In 2013, four of DD&B’s eight lawyers were selected to the Rhode Island Super Lawyers/Rising Stars List. In addition to confidential surveys, such as Martindale and Super Lawyers, an attorney’s membership in “invitation-only” legal associations, such as ABOTA, the American Board of Trial Advocates, may be a valuable indication of an attorney’s competence. Many lawyers and law firms maintain their own websites and those can often give insight into the level of personal service you would get from the law firm. For example, DD&B’s website maintains a list of our successes, descriptions of our areas of practice, and dedicated biographies of each attorney.
It is critical that the lawyer you hire has the skill and experience to go to trial and win. The insurance companies and defense lawyers who are tasked with defending these types of cases are keenly aware of those lawyers and law firms who rarely, if ever, take their cases to the courtroom. If your lawyer is not experienced, the result is often a grossly insufficient offer by the insurance company and 11th-hour settlements at a fraction of the case’s full value. Reluctance by many lawyers to take their cases to trial can be traced to a number of factors: lack of trial experience, insufficient resources, even the simple fear of losing.