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Ask Avvo: How do I decide which lawyer to hire?

Avvo, Tips & how-to

Q: How do I decide which lawyer to hire?

A: There are three basic steps to deciding which lawyer is right for you.

Step 1: Do I need a lawyer?

What do lawyers do, exactly?

Lawyers (also called attorneys or counsel) serve as advocates for people and organizations. They represent clients both to the court and to opposing parties. Lawyers can represent clients in criminal cases, where a law has been broken, and in civil cases, in which one party is suing another.

Lawyers are also important partners in situations that don’t involve the courtroom, advising clients about their legal rights and obligations for personal or business issues. They are trained to interpret complicated systems of laws and navigate the court system.

What can a lawyer do for me?

First, a lawyer will advise you as to whether or not you actually need legal help. It’s not always obvious whether an issue is a legal matter or something that can be resolved without involving the court system. A lawyer will help you answer these initial questions.

If you do decide to hire a lawyer, then they have the power to represent you to the court and to opposing parties. Your lawyer is your most important ally in any legal matter. They provide advice on how to proceed with your legal issue, and prepare important documents for you.

If your issue involves going to court, your lawyer will accompany you, and can speak for you. If your legal matter involves mediation or arbitration, your lawyer will negotiate with the opposing party on your behalf.

There’s also an option between not getting legal help and hiring a lawyer for your case, for situations where you just have a quick question or are unsure of which way you need to go. With the Avvo Advisor service, you can speak to a highly reviewed lawyer on the phone in minutes, for just $39. Download the Avvo Advisor App and, for a limited time only, use promo code Nakedlaw to get a free Advisor session.

Step 2: What type of lawyer do I need?

What practice area should I choose?

Many lawyers tend to focus only on one area, or several related areas of law. In your search for the right lawyer, you should look for a lawyer who understands and has experience in the specific area of law for your issue. For example, a divorce lawyer may not be able to help you if you are considering declaring bankruptcy for your business, but a bankruptcy lawyer who understands bankruptcy and business law would be a perfect match. Reputable lawyers will be upfront about their experience and specific focus, but it will save you some time by narrowing your search beforehand.

Top 5 practice areas for Avvo attorneys:

Piechart 03
Avvo attorneys handle cases in over 120 practice areas, including divorce, criminal defense and bankruptcy.

Is practice size and type something I should consider when I’m looking for a lawyer?

Practice size is definitely something you should take into account. Some firms consist of only one lawyer, while some firms retain hundreds. There are many different types of law firms, some of which focus on very specific issues, while others may be more general. For instance, a large corporate firm may not help if you only need a lawyer to review a contract or a few documents, but may be the right choice if you are filing a personal injury suit against a large company.

If your legal issue involves small sums of money, or only a few documents, a small firm may be more cost-effective. The size of a law firm may also determine how quickly you will be able to actually speak to your potential lawyer; larger offices may require you to schedule your initial consultation through a lawyer’s assistant or secretary.

Number of Avvo attorneys who offer free consultations: 25,654

Step 3: How do I narrow the list of possible lawyers to contact?

Should location be a major factor in my search for a lawyer?

Location is an important factor in looking for a lawyer to represent you. Since your issue will likely depend on state or local laws and regulations, you will want an attorney who understands the regulations for your location. On the practical side, you will also want a lawyer who has an office that is convenient for you to travel to. Some lawyers are willing to travel to meet you, but may also charge for travel time. It’s usually a good idea to find a lawyer located in your geographical area. Besides legal knowledge of state and local laws, lawyers also have practical local knowledge. Lawyers in specific cities or towns will also have connections to helpful agencies in that city, which will expedite the process of resolving your issue.

What are other clients saying about them?

One of the best ways to know if an attorney is right for you are client reviews. Read what previous clients have said about specific attorneys and their experiences. Once you choose an attorney to contact, read all the reviews about that particular lawyer to get an idea of how they may handle your case and interact with you.

NEXT: Read the full guide, “How to find and hire a great lawyer”

About Avvo

Avvo helps people find and connect with the right lawyer through industry-leading content, tools and services. Founded in 2006 in Seattle, Avvo provides transparent information about attorneys, with Avvo-rated profiles for 97% of practicing lawyers in the United States. A free Q&A forum with more than 9 million questions and answers make legal faster and easier. For more information on how Avvo helps people through legal issues from research to resolution, visit

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Ridley Fitzgerald

You have a ton of great information here about hiring a good lawyer. I like the third step about narrowing down a list of potential lawyers. Asking for references is definitely a good idea. In my opinion, if other clients like the lawyer, you probably will too.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Lawyer – Autism Law

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Sam Wilkins

Great tip about considering practice size when you need to hire an attorney. I need to look for a defense attorney for my brother and I think it would be best if I looked at larger firms for his case. I'm not a professional, but I've heard multiple lawyers from the firm will work on each case. I will look into that when I shop around, thanks for sharing!

Sandy Rivers

I definitely think that this guide is extremely helpful and everyone should look at it when hiring a lawyer. Your tip on finding the right a lawyer under the right practice and the genre of the case is fantastic and extremely useful. I feel much better about hiring a lawyer now and I think I won't have any issues thanks to you!

Lauren Woodley

I am going through a divorce, and I need to hire a lawyer for my case. That being said, I was wondering if I should always hire someone in my area or if I can branch out to other areas? You talk about how location is an important factor because the case will usually depend on state and local laws, so hiring someone who lives and practices in the area will be able to provide the best help. I will definitely keep this in mind and make sure that I find someone who is reputable in my area. Thank you for sharing!

Matthew Cooke

Hi Lauren, it sounds like you have a legal question that would be best answered by a lawyer in our free Q&A forum. Lawyers do not provide advice through our blog, but they do in the forum -- usually within 12 hours. All questions are open to answers for seven days. You can post your questions here when you're ready: You can also browse previously asked questions and lawyer answers, or read legal guides that may answer your questions, here: I hope this is helpful!

Jonathan Pound

Thanks for the tip about considering the size of the law firm. I know that there are many different types of law practices, ranging from general law to corporate law. It also sounds like the size of the law firm will also correspond to the amount of legal muscle you will need for your circumstance. Thanks again for your tips.

Patricia Mc Caffrey

I am seeking a High Powered lawyer for a Medical Malpractice suite against John C. Lincoln Hospital and the ER. Doctor. I was interrogated in the ER. by two men and a woman and the ER. Doctor had to give permission for this to happen. I went to the ER with Bilateral Pulmonary Embolism I drove myself to the hospital, my car has an illegal GPS on it, and this is how the NSA? ended up in the Triage room, the two men an the woman were firing questions at me, the woman went into my medical files on the laptop. I went unconscious after being told to take a deep breath (I could only shallow breathe due to the blood clots in both lungs) I was moved from the Triage space to a large (assembly hall sized room,) where I was left un-attended. When I regained consciousness I was slumped to the right size of the large chair, I couldn't move my body, only my eyes. I looked around the room to see were I was, I lay there awake for at least one hour. A ER. doctor came into the room and was slowly walking towards me, he must have seen my eyes move and picked up his pace yelling "we need to get you up stairs" I told him I needed a pain shot which he hurried to get. After the shot I went unconscious again and came to when three people were trying to get me out of the wheel chair and into the hospital room on the fourth floor. I am now under medical care from the damage to my body that I sustained after being moved unconscious from the Triage room to the "Large Room" to the fourth floor hospital room.

This is a serious case and no-one should ever have to be this mistreated in a hospital where my civil rights and civil liberties were totally abused and the fact the ER Doctor allowed, this is Malpractice,

Patricia Mc Caffrey
Phoenix, AZ


Danielle Post

Hi Patricia, I'm so sorry to hear about your situation! I would recommend locating an attorney using Avvo's Legal Directory. You can search by practice area as well as location to find one close to you. Avvo profiles contain an attorney’s experience as well as client and peer reviews. Many offer free consultations, so be sure to ask if you decide to contact them on your own or through Avvo. Here’s the link to get started on your search: & for malpractice specifically. I hope this is helpful. Kindly, Danielle


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