It’s hard to pick an attorney. How do you know who is any good? How do you know whether they’ve handled cases like yours? How do you know whether they’re as comfortable in a courtroom as behind a desk? How do you know…anything at all?
Law firm websites are full of glossy headshots of attorneys featuring winning smiles and a variety of different colored (but still conservative) suit jackets. I mean, there’s a place for that; we have headshots, too. After all, you should be able to see the attorney you’re considering hiring and even learn a little bit about them.
If you’ve searched for a family law attorney at all, you’ve probably come across a couple sites: Avvo, FindLaw, and SuperLawyers, for starters. They all sound good, too, right? I mean, the basic premise of all of these sites is to find well-ranking, good attorneys easily. It really makes searching for legal services a bit like searching for any kind of commodity; you can quickly and easily search and compare different attorneys, read reviews, and find out who is the perfect attorney for you.
But is it that easy? Can you trust those sites? Is it legit?
All good questions! I have some answers, too, and some things that you should consider as you search for an attorney.
It’s always good to do your research, and to not rush in to any big decisions. A family law case – whether its divorce, custody, annulment, adoption, whatever – is a big deal. It can have lasting implications for your financial future, as well as more practical, every day impact on your family.
For awhile, we heard a TON about Avvo. Their reps called our office all the time, wanting to talk to our attorneys, and we were encouraged by others in the industry to take specific steps to make sure we had a perfect 10.0 score there, as consumers were using it to choose their own lawyers.
It seems to have fallen out of favor, or fallen out of usage, recently, but from time to time I’m still questioned by consumers about Avvo ratings.
It’s mostly a legal directory site. Avvo representatives encourage attorneys to pay for ad time on the site, so that they can put you in front of people looking for lawyers. It also has an “ask an attorney” thing where you can submit questions, mostly as a request for more information on how to find and ultimately hire a lawyer.
There’s a rating component that’s based on a lot of things but, for most attorneys, if you put in a little time, it’s pretty easy to get to that 10.0 rating.
FindLaw is another legal directory. It’s mostly ad driven, and, although you can find a list of local area law firms, the way you see the options presented is dependent upon how much money the law firm or lawyer pays FindLaw.
It’s one of the first things that shows up in a search, so it can be beneficial for lawyers (or can be perceived to be beneficial for lawyers) to be listed there. It’s sort of like the new yellow pages, since everyone uses the internet for searches now. But it doesn’t really help you compare the good attorneys from the bad.
SuperLawyers has a cool name, right? You can see, at a glance, who the good attorneys are, and there’s an index of lawyers in your area.
Of course, as far as earning SuperLawyer status, there’s a degree of merit to it. You have to have been nominated by attorneys, have good feedback from clients, and essentially go through a vetting procedure.
It’s ad-driven too, though. It’s not like it’s a purely honorary organization; they’re trying to trade off of creating a SuperLawyer status, and sell that status to lawyers (because consumers like to see these things). They sell plaques and ad space and PR kits and all sorts of stuff.
So, how do I tell a good lawyer from a bad one?
It’s hard! It’s not like, say, a washing machine, or a book on Amazon, where you can read reviews and really get a good sense of the thing.
These websites help, especially the ones with a rating component. But whether or not a lawyer is a Superlawyer, or whether they have a perfect 10.0 on Avvo, isn’t completely probative either. It’s not like you can put all your stock into one of these systems, do no research yourself, and expect to be thrilled.
I also think that just because a lawyer is “good” doesn’t mean that the lawyer is good for you. There’s a really personal component to choosing a lawyer, especially a family lawyer – you have to trust them with all sorts of super sensitive information. If you can’t have an open, honest, transparent conversation with the lawyer, well, they may not be the lawyer for you!
Not only that, but lawyers are good at different things. One might be a trial tested, battle worn litigator, but that’s not necessarily the person you need on every single case – after all, they tend to be expensive, aggressive at billing, and can drive up costs because they’re better in trial than at settlement negotiations. And if you need a real litigator, you don’t want the smooth talker who aces all the negotiations, either. You need to find the right lawyer for you, and I’m afraid that it’s hard to do that without actually sitting down and having a conversation with a lawyer.
Read reviews. Read an attorney’s bio. Check out their Avvo rating, and whether they are SuperLawyers. But there’s also no substitute for talking to an attorney!
Research can help you make sure you winnow your list down, so you’re not meeting with 15 (hey, that gets expensive!). But ultimately, you need to meet an attorney and gauge for yourself whether they’re your perfect 10.
For us? Well, we’re different. You don’t have to meet us in a consultation; you can meet us either at one of our seminars or even our GNO events. It’s a great way to meet us, gauge our personalities, and decide whether we’re a good fit.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an attorney, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.