I give out my business card and I always tell people, "I hope you never have to call me." As a person handling accidents, criminal defense and industrial injuries, I am usually contacted when a tragedy has occurred. Its tough, but I want to help.
Hiring a lawyer is like buying a car, it is done infrequently so most people have little knowledge or practice in the doing it. At the same time it is a decision that can affect your life for several years so it is important to make the right choice. What should you do?
The first and best way to find a lawyer is to ask your friends and family. You would be surprised how many people will know a good accident or criminal defense attorney. You will also be surprised how many horror stories you get. Regardless, YOU have the obligation to make the right choice.
It is a well settled legal principal that a person chooses a lawyer at their own peril. Meaning if you lose your court case, you can't undo the damage by saying my lawyer did a bad job. Do some research at the beginning.
First, go to your State's bar website. States like California have a lawyer search option. You can do a web search and see if a lawyer has been subjected to discipline by the state bar. A person with lots of bar complaints means they may not be a good match for you. State bar complaints are usually generated as a result of a lawyer failing to follow the rules of practice.
Second, Google them. A google search of the lawyer may turn up nothing or may turn up a lot. A good lawyer will probably have google results showing news articles about winning cases or scholarly articles they have written or maybe a Blog. A bad lawyer may have google results showing a history of bad acts or maybe embarrassing myspace photos. You can learn a lot about a lawyer very quickly via Google.
Third, ask another lawyer. For all the lawyers in the country, the legal profession is actually a very regionalized and small community. Particularly with in a given practice area most attorneys know of one another. Ask a lawyer if they know anything about the person you plan to hire. We can usually make a few phone calls and get basic feedback about a lawyers reputation and their quality of practice.
There are many other options out there. It is your job to do the legwork because you will end up relying on your lawyer, for better or worse.