For many of the clients that we work with at Bay Area Bicycle Law, it is their first — and sometimes only — experience in their whole life of working with a lawyer.
It can be really scary to try to find the right lawyer.
Your case is important to you — the outcome of your case could truly change your life, either for the worse or the better — and you want to find exactly the right person. And yet, if you’re not a lawyer yourself, how do you know what a good lawyer even looks like?
It can be intimidating to contact a lawyer. Although we try to be friendly and helpful to everyone who calls our office, whether or not they end up becoming a client, many law firms do not. And beyond that, many people feel a little overwhelmed by the idea of “interviewing” a few lawyers before choosing one.
We don’t want you to just “end up with” a lawyer. We want you to get exactly the right support and expertise for your case.
In today’s post, we have put together some basic guidelines for looking for the right attorney for you. If you follow these steps, you will help ensure you are making an informed decision and hiring an attorney that will truly make a difference for your case.
How to find good lawyers
If you’ve never hired an attorney before, you probably don’t even know where to start. Besides late night TV ads and bus benches, how does the average person find a great lawyer?
A great place to start is with your friends and family. Ask around and see if anyone has a lawyer that they have worked with before and really like; a personal recommendation is one of the best ways to find an attorney who will be a good fit for you.
You can talk to your friend or family member about your case and what you need; they can tell you if the lawyer they know might be a good fit. Even if they aren’t a perfect match, if your friend really trusts them and their advice, they could still introduce you to the attorney who could make a referral for you.
You can also look to bicycle organizations in your area to get recommendations for attorneys who specialize in bicycle law cases. For example, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has a list of “bicycle-friendly lawyers” on their website for their members to refer to.
Finally, you can look at websites like Yelp to get reviews from past clients of specific law firms. This is a good tool to use if you’re narrowing down options; if a firm has lots of happy past clients, the odds are good that you will be a happy client too.
How to interview potential lawyers
Before you get into the specifics, the most important thing to consider when interviewing potential attorneys is how you feel them personally. A lawyer will be someone who works closely with you, and who will learn many personal details about you (though looking at medical records, conversations about your recovery, etc), and you want to feel like you trust this person with that level of intimacy.
Of course, many people will have lots of questions ready that they want to ask their potential attorney. However, if you are stumped on where to start or you just want to make sure you don’t miss anything important, here are a few suggestions.
We have also included the kinds of answers you should be looking out for, that are either good signs or red flags. Not all of our thoughts will necessarily apply to you, so just use these as a starting point and make decisions that are best for your situation.
- What kinds of cases does your firm typically handle? How many cases like mine have you worked on before? What were the outcomes?
At Bay Area Bicycle Law, we are the only firm in Northern California to specialize exclusively in representing cyclists. With very few exceptions, bike crash cases are all we do. We have been doing them for years, and so we have a lot of experience with the laws, the processes, and the potential outcomes for your case.
Not every firm you interact with with specialize like we do. That isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker; however, you typically do not want to be someone’s first bike crash case. It is better to find a lawyer who has worked on a case like yours before, and who has access to information and experience that will help them serve you better.
- Who will be working on my case? Will it be you or a member of your team?
At a small firm, it is likely that the attorney you meet with could end up being the person who works on your case and communicates with you the most. We have a very small team at our firm, so even if you don’t work directly with the attorney who you first meet with, you will be connected to a lawyer who works very closely with our entire team of attorneys.
- How will I get in touch with you? How often can I expect to meet with you?
It is good to get an idea of how frequent communication will be with your attorney and/or their firm. In general, you will meet with your attorney somewhat frequently in the beginning — as they collect your evidence, your story, and establish your goals for the case — and then you may not hear from them so much.
This is because a lot of law work is slow work. We have to request records, send letters, and lots of other things that simply take time and don’t really require your constant input. We see it as our job to relieve you of the stress of managing these kinds of details, so we prefer to only give you updates when we need your input or when something major happens.
Of course, a good attorney will be there for you when you are stressed and need to hear what’s going on with the case (which usually happens at some point, since many cases can take around a year to complete). However, it’s good to set expectations early on so that not hearing from your attorney (or hearing from them too often) doesn’t add to your worries.
- How do fees work at your firm?
For a bike crash case, the typical fee structure for an attorney is that they will take one third of the final settlement amount (assuming the case does not require litigation); however, this is not always the case, and you should expect the attorney to explain that the fee agreement will be decided and approved by you in a written contract with the attorney.
If you get a bad feeling, or it seems like the attorney is being purposefully vague about how fees will be handled, you should listen to those feelings. Ask more questions, or if you aren’t sure what to ask, make a note to follow up with them on this later. Hiring an attorney should be financially beneficial to you; you should not work with someone who you feel could be taking advantage of you.
Other topics that you might be interested in asking about could be if/how the attorney can help you manage your medical bills, what they think your case could be worth, or how the process of the case will work at their firm.
Depending on your case, some attorneys may tell you that they don’t think you have a strong enough case to pursue. If this happens, you are always free to get more opinions and make sure you feel like you really understand the strength of your case; however, don’t forget that an attorney (particularly one who specializes in bicycle law) is an expert in this area and may have insights into how cases like yours work.
Do you need to talk to a bicycle law expert about your case?
Call Bay Area Bicycle Law today to discuss your case and see if our team of lawyers could help you win the settlement you deserve. You can reach us at1-866-Bicycle-Law or 415-466-8717, or email email@example.com.
Please be aware that these case results do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. Every case is different and case values turn on small facts and differences. Thus, the results achieved on one case do not necessarily mean the attorney will achieve the same result, or a similar result, even for a case which may have some similarities.