So, you decided to hire an attorney and now have a short list of names. It's time to do some research. Start with the basics, and then trust your instinct.
Before you go one step further, make sure the attorney is in good standing with their licensing authority. This is publicly available information. You can google your state name and attorney lookup. Or maybe just go to your state's Bar Association page. Generally speaking, attorneys can be researched online. Once you find their profile - usually searchable by name - check to see if they are in good standing. If the attorney you lookup has some past findings that have subsequently been resolved, you are still good. What you need to look for are an open and unresolved findings. If you aren't sure where to find the information, call your state's Bar Association. They are more than happy to help.
This is the big hurdle. Everyone must clear this one before you go any further. The rest is really about balance.
The most experienced and successful attorneys are likely also the most expensive. There is a good reason for that. But, not all matters need that level of experience. So, depending on how complicated your matter is, a less experienced attorney is a great option. You can find out more about their experience on their licensing authority page, their website, or just by asking them.
In our experience, this is always at the top of the list. Most people don't have an open legal matter very often and as such, it's all new. You may want an attorney who has a strong communication process. Verify their preferred communication methods, too. Phone calls and emails are great, but often, the attorney will charge you for this. So be sure to set your expectations.
Some attorneys use a legal technology platform that offers a client portal. That portal, much like a login to your email or the like, gives you 24/7 access to your matter. Your attorney can post notes to your matter, you can view documents, upcoming and past court dates, time spent, invoices, and more through the portal. That means you can login anytime to see the latest. So you stay informed, but you don't need to spend the money with live phone calls, etc.
It's about balance and what you are most comfortable with in terms of communication. But be sure the attorney you select fits your communication preference.
Unless you just won the lottery, chances are you need an attorney for a reason that is not joyful. You need to find an attorney that understands your unique situation and is willing to help you through the process. Yes, the attorney practices law (likely) every day. They are used to the process. But for you, it may be the first time. Decide what level of empathy you need. If it isn't a big deal to you, then take it off your list. But if it is, you need to get some feel for their level. Some attorneys have online review sites, but remember to take those with a grain of salt. As we all know, most people only post if they have had a negative experience. And there are always two sides to the story. But look for multiple comments on the same topic and you can give those a bit more credibility.
Yes, we all need to be better at listening. But, especially in your first conversation, pay special attention. There is a lot of information that can be conveyed without words. Multi-tasking, not focused on what you are saying, interrupting continuously, etc. are signs that the attorney may not be a great listener. Now, that isn't a deal breaker. Just make sure you are comfortable with their level of attentiveness.
Your Gut Feeling
Sometimes, you just need to follow your hunches. If you get a great feeling about the attorney during your first discussion, that's a good sign. If you get a bad feeling, well, consider that too. There is a lot to be said about your intuition.
All in all, deciding what makes a good lawyer depend on the client. And remember, you have a role in the relationship too. Being a good client helps your lawyer, too.