The traditional and still one of the best ways to choose a lawyer is based on a referral from a family member or trusted friend. If someone you trust has had a good experience with a lawyer, perhaps you should consider calling that lawyer to see if he or she handles the type of matter with which you need help. If not, that lawyer may still be able to refer you to another qualified lawyer.
Another method of selecting a lawyer is by scanning the yellow pages. More information is provided about lawyers in the current yellow pages than any time in the past, so you may be able to reach a decision to call a particular lawyer based on his or her ad.
If you need a lawyer and don't know which one to choose to help you with your particular problem, the Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service is available to assist you. The Lawyer Referral Service is sponsored and supervised by the Oregon State Bar to help persons in need of legal advice find the right lawyer quickly. There is no charge for this referral system.
Call the referral service from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. In the Portland area, the number is (503) 684-3763; from any place else in Oregon, the toll-free number is (800) 452-7636. You will be asked for your name, phone number, and a brief description of your legal problem. You will be given the name and phone number of a lawyer in your geographic area.
If you are referred to a lawyer through the Lawyer Referral Service, you will be entitled to an in-office consultation for a fee of $35. If there is additional work that needs to be done, the fee for that work should be arranged between you and the lawyer at this first interview. The Lawyer Referral Service does not set a limit on the fees attorneys charge beyond the initial consultation.
If you are not sure whether or not you need to speak with an attorney, you may still want to call the service. The Lawyer Referral staff can help you focus on the type of assistance you may need, or give you more information on Oregon State Bar, government and community service programs that may be able to help you.
Once you have selected a lawyer to call, make sure you have a list of questions prepared so that you can systematically evaluate whether to hire that lawyer. Normally, you will call to set up an appointment to see the lawyer. Ask what the cost of the initial appointment will be. At the appointment, ask the lawyer your questions. Ask for specific information about what he or she will charge you and make sure that when you decide to hire the lawyer that his or her assignment and the fees to complete that work are confirmed for you in writing. Having a written fee agreement will help avoid disagreements about what the lawyer agreed to do for you and what you agreed to pay for that work. Remember, you dont have to commit to hiring the lawyer right then. Tell the lawyer, if you need time to evaluate the information obtained from him or her during the initial appointment, that you will promptly get back to him or her with your decision.
We all get along with some people better than others and this applies to lawyers too. Make sure you feel comfortable with the lawyers attitude, responsiveness, stated abilities, and experience. Ask the lawyer for his or her resume or other available information about where the lawyer went to law school, how many years of practice the lawyer has had, how much experience the lawyer has had handling the type of matter you are asking the lawyer for help on, and whether the lawyer has had any complaints made to the Oregon State Bar about his or her activities. The latter information can be verified by calling the Oregon State Bars Discipline Records Hotline at (800) 452-8260, Extension 394 (toll-free in state) or (503) 620-0222, extension 394. There is nothing wrong with consulting more than one lawyer before deciding who to hire. Remember, it will be easier on you and the lawyer if you make a decision not to hire someone at the outset rather than changing lawyers in the middle of a case.
Clients have many qualified lawyers to choose from in Oregon. Your investment of time in the selection of a lawyer should pay off in a strong, positive relationship with the lawyer you ultimately choose to represent you.