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Selecting an estate lawyer

I am helping a friend of a friend who needs an attorney in the Long Island, New York area. I contacted a law school classmate, who is in that area, to see if he knew someone out there. That is always my first move when I need to help someone find counsel in another area; contact trusted friends.

However, in this case he can’t help me so what do I do next?  Frankly I probably try to find someone like me.  Small firm, experienced, highly credentialed and friendly.

I start with a web search. I go to websites like avvo.com and lawyers.com which are highly reputable lawyer websites. I look for highly rated attorneys in, or near, that area.  On Avvo.com I like for an attorney who is rated “10.0″ like I am as it’s their highest rating.  On lawyers.com I look for an attorney who is “AV rated” like I am as that is their highest ranking; and, I should add an award that is coveted by attorneys throughout the country.

After that I look at experience.  I have been doing this type of law since 1994 so I look for someone with similar years of experience. There is so much that is learned through the years of practice and is just not taught in law school or continuing education classes. It just takes PRACTICE!

I look for someone with a focused practice. A lot of websites indicate they do wills, trusts, probate and related things and then it goes on to say they also do car accidents, bankruptcy, family law and other things. It’s hard to imagine someone being really good at anything if they practice in that many areas of law.  I practice in estate planning and probate ONLY!

I then try to get a feel for the person by their website.  Does their website look too fancy? Does their office look expensive?  My clients like high quality but affordable legal services. I thus try to find similar when I am referring someone to an attorney in another state. I also look at their personal stuff.  Family person? I am a family person so I think I identify with other family people. The attorney I found today is a 20 year member of his local Rotary club. In my 4 years in Rotary I have found my fellow Rotarians to be very upstanding people and that’s important for a referral!  Again, you can’t teach everything in law school or continuing education classes. Some people are high quality individuals and some people are NOT!

If you want my list of the 7 questions to ask an estate planning or probate attorney BEFORE you hire them just ask.

-John

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