May 31, 2017
By Dan Beckley
Finding a lawyer can seem overwhelming. Where do you even start? Google? Ask your neighbor across the street? Call someone you saw on a TV commercial? Leaf through that huge book with Yellow Pages collecting dust in the corner, because it's too big to recycle?
Let us help. We are the Ohio State Bar Association, a voluntary association that represents more than 29,000 Ohio attorneys, law school students and paralegals/legal assistants. While we are not permitted to provide advice, counsel or representation to members of the public concerning specific legal matters, that doesn't mean we can't point you in the right direction.
Here are some simple tips to help you get started.
1. Find an attorney sooner rather than later.
The best time to go to an attorney is before you are in legal difficulty. It is best to consult your attorney before you sign papers or take other action that might seriously alter your legal position. Here are just a few of the times when you should consult a lawyer:
- You are planning to enter into a verbal or written contract that has major financial consequences;
- You are involved in an accident involving injury to persons or damage to property;
- You are seeking to collect a debt from another person, or someone is taking action to collect a debt from you;
- You need an opinion about the title to real estate;
- You want to plan your estate, make a will or create a trust;
- You are organizing or dissolving a business;
- You are settling an estate;
- You are involved in a family situation such as adoption, divorce, etc.;
- You believe your rights as a consumer or employee have been abused; or
- You believe your civil rights may have been violated.
2. Ask those you trust for recommendations.
If you need professional advice about a legal problem, but do not know a lawyer, check with relatives, friends, neighbors, your employer, co-workers, etc. They may be able to recommend a local attorney who has given them good service. If possible, it is wise to retain a lawyer who knows local court procedures and who practices regularly in the county where your legal problem will be resolved.
The Yellow Pages and other consumer advertising may be helpful, but be careful. Just because a law firm has a large display ad or advertises on TV does not mean it is qualified to handle your problem. A recommendation from someone you know and trust is much more reliable.
3. Search the OSBA Find a Lawyer directory by name, practice area or location.
OSBA members are the best. Seriously, we're not just saying that. Many of our members have been certified by the OSBA as specialists in particular areas of law. Plus, members have exclusive access to online legal resources to help them make their practices even better, so find one through our online directory.
4. Try a local lawyer referral service.
In each of Ohio's major metropolitan areas and certain other counties, the local bar association sponsors a lawyer referral service. Often the lawyer will schedule a half-hour consultation for an affordable fee (typically $15-$25). Ask for fee information when you call.
5. Don't say "I can't afford a lawyer" as an excuse not to get help.
If you are interested in speaking to a legal aid provider, either call toll-free (866) LAWOHIO, or visit the Ohio Legal Services website to search the listing of legal aid providers in Ohio. Also, check out the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation's Ohio Legal Aid page for nine legal aid organizations that provide legal advice, information and representation at no cost to the client.
Dan Beckley is website and digital content strategist for the Ohio State Bar Association.
Need more information on choosing a lawyer? Visit the OSBA LawFacts Pamphlet "Attorneys" or the OSBA website's "For Public" section.