Virginia State Bar Video Briefs: Selecting a Lawyer

Virginia State Bar Video Briefs You’ve decided you need a lawyer. Now, you need to decide what kind of a lawyer you want. You’re going to have to do a little work, a little research. Do you need a lawyer to help plan your estate, or write a will, or represent you in a court case, or for some other reason? A lawyer you would hire to help write your will may not be qualified to represent you in court. All lawyers are not the same. The right lawyer is the person who has experience handling matters like yours, and who is prepared to take action right away. How do you find a lawyer? Well, there’s always the phone book. Or, try talking to friends, neighbors, coworkers, family members. Ask people who may have had a legal matter like yours. Or, if you already have a lawyer, ask for a referral to someone who has the background and experience you need. You can try the Internet . Many lawyers and law firms have web sites. And there are lawyer referral services available. The Virginia State Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service can be reached at 1-800-552-7977 or in Richmond at 775-0808. A specialist there will give you the names and numbers of lawyers in your area who do the type of work you need. A first consultation costs only thirty-five dollars. After you’ve set up a meeting with the lawyer you might want to hire, prepare for your meeting. Get whatever papers you might need together and send them to the lawyer in advance. Prepare questions you have. Maybe write a short summary of your case. Ask about costs. There are different kinds of fees a lawyer might charge: an hourly fee, a fixed or flat fee, a contingency fee. Get a fee agreement in writing, and make sure you understand it. There’s a lot of work to do before you hire a lawyer. And the Virginia State Bar can be a big help. Our publications department has a document called “Selecting and Working with a Lawyer.” It’s a good place to start. To get a copy go to our website at, or call the State Bar at (804) 775-0500.

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