I receive New York City’s Best Lawyers magazine, as you probably do, as a supplement to my local newspaper, in my case the New York Times.
I believe it’s published by Thomson Reuters but after a futile search I can’t find confirmation of that fact. In any case, it is not the worst way of finding a lawyer. (The worst way is calling one of those lawyers who advertise on TV, or radio. The second worst way may be getting a recommendation from a friend–unless the friend is a lawyer, or knows a lot about lawyers. I’m now going to end this parenthetical statement and go back to…)
Every time the supplemental arrives, I find myself compelled to read through it, checking up on specialties in which I know lawyers, or know of lawyers, just to see who made it this year, who didn’t and should have, and who’s been dropped.
For me, it’s sort of like reading the Daily News gossip columns and counting how many times I say, “Who the hell is this guy?”
Well, no. I don’t really do that with the Best Lawyers, since I think anybody on the list–whether I know him/her or not–has got to be pretty good, at least in the minds of her fellow lawyers.
And as you’ll see if you go into the link (down at the bottom), Best Lawyers comes in a number of editions, covering regions other than New York.
My suggestion for using it:
- Write out a clear, simple, straight-forward description of your case. I suggest writing it out because most of us–especially when we’re under the stress of injury and a potential lawsuit–are not going to be “clear, simple…” etc in a phone conversation with a lawyer we’ve never met. Leave out emotions, exaggerations, hyperbole of any kind. A lawyer–even a humane and considerate one–isn’t initially going to care about how you feel. She’s going to understand you feel awful. You wouldn’t be trying to find a lawyer if you felt fine. What a lawyer–who is evaluating your situation to determine whether it’s a case he/she can take–needs to know from you is: what happened and what the results are. By writing this out, you can control the natural tendency we all have to wander off the track. Or bawl. Or make other loud noises.
- Look through the Best Lawyers supplement to find the area of law you need. (And don’t just pull a familiar or famous name out of any area of law and think you’re going to talk, say, a civil rights lawyer into taking your divorce case because your ex has abused your civil rights).
- My personal judgment, after a lot of experience, is to lean to women lawyers for a number of reasons I won’t go into here. But this is only my personal preference so take it with a grain of salt on the rim of your margarita.
- Go into the web site of each lawyer. Law firms nowadays try to be personable on their sites, offering not only a list of a lawyer’s specialties and awards, etc., but a sense of their personalities.
- After you’ve compiled a group of lawyers you have a decent feeling about, contact them one at a time–unless it’s an urgent matter. Most of the law firms have contact links on their web sites, or you can call. As I said in my first bullet, if you have a brief description of your case written out, you will probably be rational and articulate on the phone, even if you’re not reading your description word-for-word to whomever you’re speaking to.
- Prepare yourself not to receive responses from every lawyer you contact, or to convince a lawyer to take your case. If a lawyer says he can’t take your case for whatever reason, ask him if he can refer someone else.
- One solid reason a lawyer might not take your case is–prepare yourself to be shocked–money. If your case isn’t a contingency type of case, a lawyer will ask you how to intend to/can pay the legal fees. You’ll need to have an answer. (Bawling won’t work.)
Read the digital editions of Best Lawyers magazines, which offer the full editorial content of the printed magazine in our brand new, user-friendly format.