You may not yet know the identity of the attorney you should hire. But there is a good chance someone you know will know who he or she is. That is why the absolute best way to find the lawyer that’s right for you is to ask the people you know for referrals. The best and first people you should ask are your friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors. Keep this in mind when considering whom to ask: the better the person knows you, the better able he or she will be to make a good referral.
Not every referral you receive will be a home run, but asking these follow-up questions will help make sure you are at least getting to first base.
Did you actually hire the attorney you are referring? Ideally you want a referral from someone who had first-hand experience dealing with the attorney. If they don’t have first-hand experience working with the attorney then make sure you know the basis of their referral. If the attorney they are referring is just someone they Googled or saw in a television advertisement, then you should say “Thanks, but no thanks” for the referral.
What did the attorney do for you? You can’t really compare apples and oranges. So although you don’t need the person making the referral to share the gory details about the situation that required the assistance of an attorney, it would be helpful if he or she is willing to share enough about the case for you to gauge whether your cases are similar. A family law attorney who did a great job on a custody case may not be the right referral for someone looking for an attorney to handle a complex property settlement case.
What did you like most about the attorney? Remember, you are not looking for just any old attorney: you are looking for the attorney that’s right for you. That’s why if you get a lukewarm response to this question, then proceed with caution. However, if they respond enthusiastically with a laundry list of things they like about the attorney they are referring and assuming what they like are the kinds of things you are looking for in attorney, then you may not just have gotten on base; you may be on your way to scoring a run.
What did you like least about the attorney? Nobody is perfect. If the referrer is willing to share a flaw then there is a good chance that you’re getting an honest assessment. What bothered him or her may not bother you but knowing this will allow you to better assess the value of the referrals.
Have you referred other people to the attorney? If they say no, then ask why. The reason may be easy to explain. There is a good chance they simply have not had the opportunity to do so. And if this is the case, then fine. However, if there are other reasons you need to know what they are before you proceed with following up on the referral.
If they have referred the attorney to other people, ask these two questions:
What type of feedback have you gotten? Unless you sought the referral from someone who is out to get you, I am going to assume they are not going to share horror stories about the attorney they referred to you. So, it is likely to they will respond by saying they have not received any feedback or only positive feedback. But this is a case where no news is bad news. If they say they have not received any feedback then that may mean the lawyer they are referring you to is okay but nothing special. How do I know? Because if the lawyer swept the person they referred off their feet, there is a really good chance they would have called the person to thank them for the referral.
How did the attorney show his or her appreciation for the referral? There is a reason I posed this question in a way that assumes the attorney did something to show appreciation. Clients are the only meaningful difference between a lawyer who practices law for a living and a lawyer who doesn’t practice law for a living. That’s why I thank everyone who is kind enough to refer a new client to me. I either pick up the phone and give them a call or send a hand-written thank-you note. And I have even taken a group of clients who regularly send me referrals out to dinner. I would not necessarily take an attorney who failed to say thank you off my list of possible candidates, but I would move someone who did take the time to show his or her gratitude to top of the list.
Other Good Sources of Referrals:
Professional Contacts: Your search for referrals should begin with your family and friends but it should not end with them. Other professionals and business owners with whom you regularly do business may also be excellent sources of referrals. Let your physician, accountant, dentist, financial planner and kid’s pediatrician know you are looking to hire an attorney, and ask if there is anyone he or she would recommend. If you are happy with the standard of service he or she provides, then there is a good chance that is the same yardstick he or she will use to measure other professionals. And because they value your relationship they will be careful not to refer someone unless he or she believes the attorney will do a good job for you.
Your Beautician and Barber: One day I traced the source of most of my clients and it turned out that my beautician, who over the years also became a good friend, had referred almost twenty percent of my client base. I am not sure what it is about the shampoo bowl or barber chair that causes people to open up about their marital problems, but they do, and that’s why my beautician was routinely referring clients to me. If your beautician and barber is anything like mine, he or she comes into close contact with a lot people throughout the day, there is a good chance he or she will either know a lawyer or they will know someone who knows a lawyer you could call.
Courtroom Personnel: There is no one better qualified to offer an opinion or recommend an attorney than courtroom personnel like the bailiff and clerk. This is particularly true if you are looking for a family law attorney. The courtroom bailiff and clerk spend eight hours a day, five days a week inside the courtroom watching attorneys in action.
He or she knows the good, the bad, and the ugly. The courtroom bailiff and clerk will know which attorneys show up to court on time and which don’t. He or she will know which attorneys show up prepared to try cases and which attorneys routinely ask that their cases be continued or rescheduled. And he or she will know which attorneys seem to get along well with the judges and which ones seems to always be butting heads with other lawyers.
If you don’t already know someone who works in the courtroom, then you will need to make a trip to the courthouse in the county where your case is going to be heard. Go to the Clerk of Court’s office and ask if someone can point you in the direction of the courtroom where they hear the type of case you have. Go to the courtroom and sit quietly in the back, and when there is a recess, approach the bailiff and tell him or her you are looking to hire an attorney. If they don’t give you a name, ask the clerk the same question.
If your first trip to the courthouse fails to produce a referral, then keep trying. Try another courtroom or come back on another day. Courtroom personnel are constantly being rotated in and out of different courtrooms. A different day could mean a different bailiff and clerk, which can produce a different result.
This is an excerpt form Who Not to Hire. Download your copy below:
Who Not to Hire
Photo Credit: Lenny Valentine at Visual Hunt