When looking for a criminal defense lawyer, more people turn to the internet now than ever before. The internet quickly provides them with information and lawyers they may choose to represent them or their loved ones.
If you do any google or Yahoo search, you’ll see tons of search results for attorneys and law firms. How do you choose between them? What should you look for? It’s enough to make someone frustrated. Just like in any area of internet business, there are things you should know to be a smart consumer and not be “taken.”
As i have outlined in past postings, the selection of a criminal defense attorney is a very personal one, but the things one should always keep in mind are the following: 1)Does this attorney only handle criminal defense 2) Does this attorney know the court where my case is pending, and 3) Can i trust this attorney to handle my case from begining to end and not hand it off to an inexperienced associate.
With that said, once you do a search for attorneys in any local city you are sure to be inundated with listings from lawyer referral services. There are several large ones such as lawyers.com or findlaw.com, but new ones are sprouting up regularly. These aren’t websites of actual attorneys or firms but referral sites set up by an independent company that charges attorneys fees to list them on their site and bring them business.
On its face it seems harmless, but there are three major issues with seeking an attorney from these large referral services.
1) Most people are under the wrong impression that the lawyers referral services do a thorough prescreening of the attorneys they recommend. They may check to see if the attorneys are licensed by the bar association to practice law, but you can do this yourself by going to www.calbar.org. As far as knowing how effective an attorney is, most of the referral sources wouldn’t have a clue. They are a business and for the most part, are concerned with getting the most lawyers to pay the highest amount for their listings. They do not do any in depth research into the lawyers they promote. You still need to do your own research.
2) The attorneys they refer to you are not the best or most qualified attorneys but the ones that have paid the agency money to promote them. Any attorney with a bar card can pay to have a listing at the top of the lawyer referal services. You just need to pay them. This wouldnt make me feel good about the attorney I am being referred to.
3) Some lawyer referral services ask for a percentage of the fees that the attorney receives from you. How does this hurt you? Attorneys realize they have to pay (let’s say 20%) to a referral agency so they raise their fees by (you guessed it 20%) so essentially they pass the cost of the referral agency to you.
How can you tell if the website you are looking at is a referral agency or an actual attorney. There are some easy ways. Referral agencies usually don’t mention the name of any attorneys on their website. Or, they have numerous attorney names and addresses on their site. When you find a site, look to see if you can see the attorney who the site belongs to and if its his or her practice. This guarantees that this is not a referral agency and will likely not have the drawbacks of a referral agency. Finally, I should say that not all referral agencies are necessarily the same and some could provide you with good attorneys, but you have to do your research.
Criminal Defense is an area where you need an advocate, someone who you can trust with your freedom and your case. Just like any area of business, there are some traps for the unwary consumer. I hope this information helps you.