When things are going well, who thinks about an attorney. It may be necessary for a lawyer to help you sell your house, set up a corporation, or do a will, generally, attorneys come into the picture after a problem.
When you need an attorney , you want not only the best attorney you can get, but you want an attorney who is very familiar with your problem. If it’s an arrest, you want a criminal defense attorney, not a patent lawyer. If you're selling your house, you want someone who does real estate sales, not a matrimonial attorney who sometimes does closings.
How do you find that attorney? We all know that its the internet and social media, and really nothing else. You can get referrals from the state bar referral service, and you can ask friends. Each has its drawbacks. Friends may mean well, but cannot realistically rate the attorney. Referral services will give you names, but they will not rate the attorneys.
There are many rating services, none of which charge or profit. Look at AVVO, or Yelp, or Martindale Hubble. Each has a rating number or letter. Each will tell you whether the attorney has a disciplinary history. Both are important.
When you get to the attorney, ask him (feel no shame here) how often he/she has handled this situation, how he/she bills, what you can expect your bill to amount to, how the attorney communicates, what you should expect to hear from the attorney, a good faith estimate of how much everything will cost, will the fees take you to the conclusion of the case, and most important, whether you can get a reference.
Not all attorneys will give you a person to speak with. It does violate the client’s privacy. Ask the attorney to provide the names of cases handled. The cases and the names are public information, and with a little sleuthing on the internet, you can find out a lot. Look for similar cases, and see if anyone has written about the attorney.
When you speak with the attorney (they should give you at least 30 minutes), ask the attorney to analyze your case, tell you the strengths and weaknesses, tell you what the other side will argue, what the judge is likely to do, and how to maximize your case.
If all this seem like a lot to do, ask yourself whether your case/situation is important to you, and what a good outcome will mean to you.