Choosing a lawyer online is a bit like being in a flea market. Advertising comes at you from all angles and it’s difficult to know what you are getting without doing some research. When people look for lawyers online, they tend to type in meaningless queries such as, "Who is the best personal injury lawyer in Maryland?” Or, “Who is the Top Accident Attorney in Virginia?”
I think this a very foolish way to search for a lawyer. You wouldn't search for a car this way. “Who sells the TOP CAR in Maryland?” Where can I find the “BEST cheeseburger in Virginia?” Everyone knows these are subjective terms based on other people’s opinions. Different people prefer different cars and you absolutely cannot verify objectively who has the best cheeseburger any more than you verify who the best lawyers are.
(Woodmont Grill in Bethesda has the best cheeseburger if you ask me!)
Yes, it’s true; there are peer review services like Maryland Super Lawyers or Best Lawyers in America. These services rate lawyers and such ratings may be useful to you. Then again, they may not. When you search for a lawyer, you will have to decide which criteria are important to you when deciding whom to hire. What works for someone else, may not work for you. For example, some lawyers may charge more for certain services because the services are very difficult or require a higher degree of skill. Maybe you want to pay a little extra to have that skill working for you. Maybe you don’t. It’s really up to you to decide what’s important to you and then shop around. As another example, past case results can be useful to figure out a lawyer's track record. It's also important to keep in mind that every case is unique and a lawyers past results are not indicative of what you might hope to achieve in the future. Every case has unique circumstances.
What questions should you ask then? I offer here a sample of possible questions you might ask before deciding to hire a lawyer. This list is by no means exhaustive or guaranteed to get the results you want. It’s just here to give you some ideas of what I would ask, if I were hiring a lawyer for myself.
- - Is the prospective lawyer willing to take cases to trial?
- - Is the lawyer a member of the million dollar advocate’s forum?
- - Does the lawyer have a track record litigating against insurance carriers?
- - Is the lawyer peer-rated?
- - Will the lawyer come to me, if I can't make it to his office?
- - What do the lawyers previous clients have to say?
- - Does the lawyer have client testimonials I can see online?
- - What will the lawyer charge me?
- - What percentage of my case is the lawyer’s contingency fee?
- - Does that fee percentage change if the case needs to go to trial?
- - Does the fee percentage the lawyer gets change if a lawsuit needs to be filed?
- - What are some of the lawyers past verdicts?
- - Has the lawyer been in business a long time?
- - How many years of experience does the lawyer have?
- - Does the lawyer client relationship feel right? (i.e. are we a good fit?)
- - Is the lawyer rated by various peer review services like Super lawyers, Martindale Hubbel?
- - Does the lawyer have an online profile on AVVO?
And so on and so on.
In summary, if you are shopping around online for an attorney, be leery of lawyers who categorize themselves as the TOP Maryland Lawyer or Best Lawyer, etc. Instead, look to online reviews of the attorney, client testimonials that attorney has, review case results, and any other information you can find that might be useful to your particular circumstance. The bottom line is, don't just hire the first lawyer that comes along and tells you he’s “THE BEST.”
DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. BUYER BEWARE.