03 Nov How to Find Legal Assistance
Triage Cancer tries to give you information to help you navigate the system without an attorney, but sometimes you may need more help. It can be overwhelming, on top of everything else, to try and figure out where to find a reputable attorney. Here are some tips to hopefully make things easier!
How do I find an attorney?
There are quite a few ways, ranging from a recommendation from your Uncle Earl to certified lawyer referral services.
- Recommendations – If you’re friendly with any lawyers, these lawyers may be able to refer you to other lawyers who have experience with your type of problem. You can also ask your friends, co-workers and employers if they know any lawyers. Business owners and professionals such as bankers, ministers, doctors, social workers and teachers might also be able to give you the name of a lawyer.
- Certified lawyer referral services – Most state and local bar associations have lawyer referral services. With these services you can typically search by practice area and location to narrow down your options. This type of service refers potential clients to attorneys. After interviewing you, the referral service staff will match you with a lawyer who is experienced in the appropriate area of the law. There is usually a small charge for the initial consultation with a lawyer and this will vary based on service. However, you should be informed of this fee prior to the consultation.
- One of the benefits of using this type of service is that they may be able to provide an attorney at a reduced rate. Lawyer referral services are required to make arrangements to serve people with limited means.
- Another benefit is that they will screen your call to determine whether you in fact have a legal claim — or need some other type of assistance. If you do need another type of assistance, the referral service can refer you to government agencies or other organizations that may be better suited to assist you.
The American Bar Association has complied all of the Lawyer Referral Programs by state.
LawHelp.org may also be a useful resource. This website is designed to provide individuals that have lower incomes with referrals to local legal aid and public interest law offices, basic information about legal rights, court forms, self-help information, court information, and links to social service agencies.
How much will an attorney cost?
Each attorney operates different, but generally, for issues like employment discrimination or disability claims, attorney’s work on contingency. This means the attorney will get a percentage of the settlement if you win the case. If you enter into this sort of agreement, make sure you get it in writing and that it includes, among other things, the agreed-upon percentage.
- Employment attorneys usually work on a contingency, with no cap.
- The maximum a disability attorney can charge, by law, is 25% of your past-due benefits for his or her services, up to a maximum of $6,000. Past due benefits is the amount owed to you based on the date the Social Security Administration rules your disability began. If you lose your claim, the attorney gets nothing except court costs and certain other expenses – out of your pocket.
- Legal aid agencies – Depending on your income and the nature of your legal problem, you may be able to get free or low-cost legal help in non-criminal cases from a legal services program. Check the Internet or white pages of your telephone book to see if such an organization is located in your area. A State Bar-certified lawyer referral service or local bar association may be able to refer you to a legal services program. A law school clinic may also be able to assist you.
For other types of attorneys make sure you understand what they are going to charge you and when they will expect a payment, before you sign any sort of written contract. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure you understand each charge.
Also, remember that after an initial consultation, you are under no obligation to hire that attorney. If you don’t feel comfortable with that lawyer or don’t think that they can adequacy represent you, you should keep shopping around!
It may also be the case that the attorney suggests that you first go through a governmental agency, like a state fair employment agency. In that case, you can find the contact information for those agencies in your state at http://triagecancer.org/resources/stateresources.