When involved in a serious legal dispute most people know the first thing they should do is contact a lawyer. However, many people struggle with choosing the right one. Choosing the right lawyer is often times the most important factor in determining the outcome of legal disputes, so needless to say, a good amount of time and research should be invested in finding the best lawyer for you.

The first step in finding a good lawyer is to determine the type of lawyer you need. In most states, a licensed attorney may practice in any field of law, but most concentrate on very specific areas. Most states also have a process of specialization for attorneys. In the past, most lawyers were general practitioners, meaning that they handled cases in a wide variety of areas. Over time, the number of lawyers grew and our society spread out, and it became common for lawyers to concentrate their efforts. There are almost as many different practice areas as there are lawyers. For example, a lawyer who practices admiralty law might not be the best attorney to assist a person needing a divorce.

The next step you should take is to utilize referral sources. One of the best resources to find a lawyer that does the kind of law you need is through other lawyers. Everyone should know at least one lawyer they could call and ask for a referral. Even if the lawyer you know practices criminal law and you need someone to prepare a will, the criminal lawyer will be able to give you some referrals in the practice area you need.

You can also look online to research lawyers in the area you need. The Internet is an extremely beneficial source of locating a lawyer. Many websites maintain directories of lawyers nationwide. Most law firms these days maintain websites and usually you can find those through any search engine. Often lawyers are active in professional or community organizations which may be featured on a website.

Next, you should meet in person with a couple of lawyers. The initial interview with an attorney that you are considering hiring is extremely important. Take with you to the interview all of the documents and other information that relates to your problem. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer about his or her credentials, as well as how many cases he or she has handled that are similar to yours.

The last thing you should do is to establish reasonable expectations. Many people have never dealt with a lawyer before, so they don’t know what to expect. You should expect frank, honest advice. Your lawyer should point out the strong and weak points of your case and give you a realistic expectation of the potential outcomes. She should keep you informed and send you copies of documents pertaining to your case. If a lawyer gives you a guaranteed result, turn and run. Lawyers are prohibited from guaranteeing any particular outcome, so be very leery if this happens. Don’t expect your lawyer to act as a psychologist, financial advisor, tax planner, or to give any other advice outside of her expertise. If you need advice in other areas, consult a professional in that area.