If you have a banking or finance problem, and you don't already have a list of lawyers you might hire, a great place to start your search is on Lawyers.com. A few short clicks gets you a list of banking and finance attorneys in your area, complete with telephone numbers, background information and more. And it's free! Look for the Find a Lawyer button on your screen.
There are other places to look, too:
- Contact the local bar association in your area
- The American Bar Association has tools and information to help you find an attorney
- Talk to family, friends and co-workers. Someone you know may have hired an attorney to help with a banking or finance problem and he can tell you what he liked or disliked about the attorney
- Check your local telephone book
Once you have a list of lawyers, find out everything you can about them:
- If you used Lawyers.com, you already have a lot information at your fingertips. Read the information given by the attorneys explaining what they do for a living, and visit the attorneys' web sites to learn even more
- Look for a list of representative clients. Are they the types of clients that you'd want your lawyer representing? Does the lawyer represent other businesses similar to yours? Does he represent any of your competitors, or someone you may have to sue?
- Run internet searches on the attorneys' names. You may find news articles about them, legal cases they've handled, or legal articles or blogs they've written. This type of information can tell you a lot about the attorneys' experience and reputations
- Make some phone calls if you can't find enough information online. Most attorneys gladly take the time to talk to potential new clients and answer any general questions, like how long he's been a lawyer, how much banking or finance work he does, etc. Ask if the attorneys or law firms have a brochure or literature to mail to you
- Call and ask for references. You want to talk to people who can give an opinion on the lawyer's skills and trustworthiness. Get a reference from a bank and from other lawyers
- Check with your state's bar association and your local bar association to see if the attorneys on your list have ever been disciplined and if they're licensed to practice law in your state. If you discover a problem, scratch the names from your list, or feel free to ask the attorneys themselves about it if and when you meet with them
- In some states, attorneys may be certified by the state bar association as specialists or experts in banking or finance law. This usually means they have advanced training and experience. It doesn't necessarily mean they're the best in the field, but it's a good indication a lawyer knows his business
- Look for a lawyer with experience in your type of case
- Consider the costs. Depending on your case, an attorney may charge you an hourly fee where you pay a certain amount for each hour she works on your case. Some attorneys may charge a flat fee - a pre-set price to work on your case from beginning to end. As you research the attorneys on your list, look for information about how they typically charge their clients and consider which fee arrangement best fits your budget
- Consider any special needs you have. For example, could you benefit from an attorney who speaks a language other than English?
Keep in Mind
After your initial research is done, start narrowing the list by focusing on your specific problem and needs.
You probably want a business lawyer who either handles lawsuits (called a business litigator) or handles contracts and corporate matters (called a transactional lawyer). Think about hiring a lawyer or a law firm with expertise to cover all of your anticipated business needs. It's not a bad idea, for example, to look at a "full service" firm that does both transactional work and litigation.
It's sometimes hard for individuals and small businesses to find a lawyer to help with banking and finance problems. Lawyers are sometimes hesitant to take on a lawsuit against a bank or financial institution because they can afford to hire good lawyers and wage long legal battles. If there are consumer protection laws involved in your case, such as truth-in-lending laws, you may have better luck finding a lawyer to represent you.
If your problem doesn't involve a lot of money, look for others who have the same problem as you. You may be able to share the costs of a lawyer. You also may be able to file a class action lawsuit.
Look to see if a lawyer is connected with business- or finance-related organizations, too. For example, most bar associations have sections in business law and related legal fields. Having a lawyer who's involved in a state or local chamber of commerce or other local organization may also be a good sign, depending on your legal needs.
Unless there are special circumstances, you want to hire a lawyer with an office in your area. It's just practical. But, you may need an out-of-town attorney if local attorneys don't specialize in your legal problem, or if you're planning on expanding operations to another city or state.
After you've narrowed your list to three or four attorneys, start making phone calls to set up meetings to talk about your case face-to-face. If you did your homework, you should be well on your way to finding the right attorney to handle your case.