Nothing on this page is intended as personal legal advice. For legal questions, it is important to consult an attorney in your own community.
By Melissa Lackman, Esq.
You are going to hear it over and over again — you need to find an attorney in your own community. But how do you do that?
First of all, do you know any established attorneys? Even if their area of practice is Trademarks and Copyrights, and you need help drawing a will or setting up a trust, they may know someone they can recommend. The best attorneys are often those who get most of their business by word of mouth from other attorneys.
There is a marvelous tool available free of charge at www.martindale.com. At the top of the page there is a magnifying glass and a link to “Find Lawyers and Law Firms.” The less information you give this search, the more results you will get, so I recommend simply specifying city and state and area of practice.
For example, I just ran a search under the “People” tab for attorneys who practice in Chicago, IL, in the areas of Advance Directives, Conservatorship, Guardianship, Incompetency Proceedings, or Mental Disability Law. I got 28 names. By clicking on a name, I was able to get a biography, more detail about areas of practice, office location, education, and professional activities.
I think it is a good sign if an attorney is active in the local bar association. That means he has additional face-to-face contact with other attorneys and often judges beyond the courtroom, and is investing his time in the community.
If your Martindale search helps you narrow down the list to a few names, you can then begin calling offices. Have a 2-3-sentence paragraph prepared about what problem you are trying to solve, and ask about fees for a consultation. If the office you call cannot help with your type of problem, ask for a recommendation.
There is no substitute for finding a competent attorney in your own community for help in dealing with a legal problem.
Melissa Lackman is a member of the California Bar, not currently in active practice. She is married to Vernon, a physician, and is privileged to be the mother of three children.