law specialty

How do you choose a specialty lawyer?

Choosing an attorney is no easy task, and with more complicated issues comes the need for more specific legal help. It seems as though every lawyer has some area of expertise, whether it’s more common practice areas like family law or extremely specific niches like international patent law. Selecting a specialist can ensure that you get the most knowledgeable counsel available.

As attorney Luigi D’ Agostino says,

Selecting an attorney is similar to selecting a doctor – you wouldn’t want a proctologist performing your brain surgery, would you?”

Rules

Many states and bar associations forbid lawyers to claim a “specialty” in an area of law, whether it’s on advertisements and firm websites, or in private meetings. This rule exists to protect potential clients.

Zachary Setzer explains,

The underlying concern is one that is at the top of the bar’s list of reasons for existing: the public needs to be able to trust that attorneys are being absolutely forthright and honest, that they are not misleading the public in any way.”

Without these rules, it would be all too easy for dishonest attorneys to claim expertise in an area of law simply to win over clients and get assigned to cases they couldn’t handle. While there are instances where lawyers can claim legitimate specialties, a client’s best option is to look at other factors before making a decision on who to hire.

Certifications

Some lawyers have certifications, issued by the state’s bar association, that allow a lawyer to claim a specialty in that area. Certifications are awarded to applicants who usually complete additional education in that area, or can demonstrate extensive experience. Certifications should not be used as an end-all for selecting an attorney. However, if a lawyer is experienced in a relevant field, a certificate in that area can only add to their qualifications.

Michael Rapp suggests,

Ask if the lawyer is part of an organization that is dedicated to that topic. For example, ACLU for Civil rights, or a trial lawyer association for Personal injury.”

You can also check to see if your lawyer is published in journals or books related to the topics surrounding your legal issues. Published works indicate expertise and greater knowledge of their field.

Experience

While it may be obvious to some, our legal professionals overwhelmingly promoted experience to help identify which lawyers are best for your case.

Rapp states,

Education is the foundation of knowledge. However, there is no substitute for experience.”

When you are considering a lawyer, ask about his or her previous cases. Compare those cases to your own, see how closely they match up, and how well your attorney represented them. This can help you determine how they would perform in your situation.

Donna Ballman summarizes,

Maybe in a less experienced attorney, a certification could demonstrate that they have the knowledge they need in their field. But I think experience trumps certifications.”

It all comes down to experience. Whether you’re searching for a specialist lawyer or not, look at their past and you’ll get a good idea of how they’ll perform for you.