When legal problems surface in your life, finding a good lawyer to represent you is the most important factor in the success of your case. The stakes or consequences may be higher than anything you've ever faced — from losing a large sum of money, going to jail, losing custody of your child, or losing your driver's license. Choosing an attorney can be overwhelming, but the process actually can give you a good idea about who you can trust, if you pay attention to the little things, as well as the big ones.

1) Pay attention to responsiveness.  How long did it take for the attorney to get back to you after your initial call? Did you get to speak to him or her by phone first, and how was the conversation? Did the lawyer let you explain the situation, or did you feel rushed? Lawyers are busy, of course, but you should never get the feeling that he or she is doing you a favor by speaking to you. If you have a hard time getting in touch that first time for a consultation, consider how responsive the service might be as a client.

2) Select several attorneys who have experience in the type of law you need and interview them.  Not every attorney is comfortable in Family Court. Some are better with estates and wills, and others with litigation. It goes without saying that experience is important.  But so is chemistry. Find out what the attorney can do for you and ask questions about their expertise. 

3) Never give an attorney your business or any money for fees just by speaking with them over the phone. Go to their office. If they are not able to meet with you when it is convenient for you, don't bother with them. You wouldn't buy a car without a test drive. Law is a service business. Lawyers are here to serve you.

4) Talk about costs. Some types of legal problems require ongoing consultation. Fees should be discussed upfront. If you have a legal matter that is suitable for a contingency fee, meaning that you pay nothing unless the attorney wins a settlement, be sure to get the specifics of that arrangement in writing.

5) Trust your instincts.  Do you like the attorney? Do you feel like you can communicate well with him or her? A good lawyer knows how to explain the law simply and should be able to provide you with a sense that your interests will be protected, no matter what. You must be able to trust him or her, and to rely on him or her, as your case progresses. The best lawyers are partners with their clients, and they provide expertise and guidance when it really counts.