Choosing the Right Attorney

From The Oregon State Bar

What is a lawyer?

A lawyer is a trained professional who is authorized to explain the law, handle legal matters and appear in court on behalf of other people. A lawyer's work also may involve counseling, preparing documents and other tasks. Most of all, a lawyer is a representative or advocate on behalf of a client.

How do you become a lawyer?

To be admitted to practice law in Oregon, you must have a college degree and must have completed at least three years of legal education in an accredited law school. Your character and moral fitness to practice law must be approved after a searching investigation. Most people must also successfully pass a written examination given by the Board of Bar Examiners and approved by the Supreme Court of Oregon.

Why do you have to be lawyer to practice law?

Practicing law is complicated. It requires up-to-date knowledge of many different fields of law, and an understanding of how the different laws interact with one another and how they may be interpreted and applied to a particular person's situation. Practicing law also requires trustworthiness. Lawyers are often asked to hold and keep safe large sums of client money. In addition, the courts rely on lawyers to tell the truth about the facts and law so they can make decisions that are appropriate under the laws of our state.

The requirements for admission to practice law in Oregon are intended to protect the public by ensuring that lawyers are competent and trustworthy to provide legal services. In addition, once a lawyer is admitted to practice law in Oregon, the Oregon Supreme Court, through the Oregon State Bar, continues to regulate the conduct of lawyers. For example, a lawyer can be disciplined by the court for ethical misconduct. Lawyers are required to have malpractice insurance so that if they make a mistake that causes damage to a client, the client may be compensated. Lawyers are also required to take continuing legal education courses to ensure that they stay current on Oregon laws.

How To Choose A Lawyer

From eHow How To Choose A Lawyer

Just because someone hangs a license on the wall to practice law, they may not necessarily be the right attorney for matters that apply to you. It is well worth your time to do some investigating and querying before you select a lawyer to represent your interests. Most attorneys value their reputations and will be honest about what they know and do not know. It is in their best interest to be up front with their clients because they most often rely on referrals for new business.

  1. Ask friends, family and colleagues. A personal recommendation is the best place to start. Most people have had contact with attorneys at some point and if they haven't, they will know someone who has. Try to find one who specializes in your particular area of concern by checking with your state bar and determine if they are in good standing with the bar.
  2. Arrange a brief meeting with the attorneys that have been recommended or that you have selected as potential prospects. This will give you a pretty quick sense of how accessible this particular attorney will be in the future. Most attorneys will agree to a one time free consultation and this is your opportunity to ask the tough questions, request a list of previous clients as referrals and have the attorney cite some specific cases she has worked on that are similar to yours and the outcome of these cases.
  3. Examine the attorney's background; both education and work experience, and study how they manage their practice. If an individual cannot manage their own business properly it is a sure sign that they will not be able to help you with yours.
  4. Ask yourself a few important questions: is their office neat and well organized, does the attorney present himself well, are they open to questions and thorough in their answers, do they respond to emails and telephone calls within 24 to 48 hours? Do they cancel and reschedule appointments frequently at the last minute?
  5. Research the average hourly rates in your area or ask friends who have recently hired an attorney. Then compare credentials, accessibility, flexibility and personality to determine if what you are being charged is reasonable. Attorneys have set rates and fees so be cautious if an attorney wants to know what your budget is. Make sure the attorney puts her fees in writing and provides detailed billing.
  6. Ask the potential attorney the following questions: Do you require an up-front retainer? What is your experience in this area of law? Have you ever handled a matter similar to mine? How many cases have you won in matters similar to mine? What are the possible outcomes of my case? What are the alternatives in resolving this matter? How long will the matter take to resolve? Do you recommend mediation or arbitration? What are your rates and how frequently will you bill me? What is your estimated ballpark figure for the total bill, including fees and expenses? Can junior attorneys or paralegals in the office handle some of the legal work at a lower rate?

We are happy to provide a no-charge initial consultation for prospective clients, and we provide a clear explanation of the costs of our services, most often with a flat fee or not to exceed estimate for a project at our first meeting.

Please feel free to contact us if you would like to schedule a consultation for yourself, a friend, or a client.