The search for a good lawyer is difficult. A person is under stress, pressure and anxious. They need help to understand the process and have likely never faced this task before. Anybody can create a website and look like a modern day Clarence Darrow with great graphics, plaques, awards and even cite published books. But, what do you really need to know to pick a good lawyer and how do you avoid getting a bad one?
I have been practicing for over 25 years and have seen the internet completely transform legal advertising. It used to be that people lawyers were prohibited from advertising and then they were limited to a phone book. Now the internet controls and there are still limits but they are being strained.
So how to separate the substance from the fluff? I believe it all comes down to a person's character. If a lawyer has solid reviews that are real, a good reputation, is professional, competent and well regarded by other lawyers, clients and courts then you have a good lawyer. If a lawyer has excelled at cases in the past, strives for continued education and skills, works diligently and is a person who cares then you have a good lawyer.
It may shock some but there are companies that will sell plaques, awards, certificates that all sound impressive. A long time ago I learned that word of mouth and referrals from former clients and other lawyers were the best sources of new clients. That is still the case. So to avoid a bad lawyer make sure you look into a lawyers background and character.
If you have a family member that is a lawyer/ clerk/ judge/ cop/ bailiff or even knows someone involved with a person involved in the court ask them who is the best lawyer in the area. If you don't have a connection go to the court and ask the bailiffs who is the best lawyer, they see every lawyer in the area and will likely share that information. Just watch court for a day and learn firsthand. Who would you want to represent you? Look, listen and learn the answer firsthand. A long time ago I was working as a newer lawyer and I got my first opportunity to be a real trial lawyer because a bailiff told a firm downstate (Concord area) that I was the real deal and they offered me a job based on the court security word of mouth.
What about the slick websites that boast about a lawyer being the top 100 etc? It is important to know what criteria are used to place a professional in the Top 100. I routinely get mail/ solicitations from groups trying to sell me plaques, certificates, trophies for a fee I can join some illustrious group. These groups do not vet professionals and are largely scams. In fact one of my colleagues filled out the form to join on behalf of the lawyer's dog and upon paying the fee the dog was recognized as one of the top 100 lawyers in the state.
I have wondered about a publication called Super Lawyers as some of my colleagues who I respect were named Super Lawyers. I doubted that these respected and honorable member in my legal community would pay for such a title. So I asked one of them and he told me that it is peer nominated and then vetted, that he didn't pay anything it just showed up. I still thought this must be for the larger firms down south, due to the larger number of cases and lawyers, but this week I received a notice from Super Lawyers saying that I was selected for 2020. After a little research it seems that this group really is a peer designation that is given to only 5% of lawyers and does not require a person to pay to join.