You may pride yourself as being a DIYer, but when a legal issue arises suddenly you’re out of our depth; the issue is pressing, the outcome is vital and this is one occasion when you simply don’t have the skills or experience to do-it-yourself. A lawyer is needed because money, personal or property boundaries or relationships are being challenged.

Lawyers play an important role in getting a fair and reasonable outcome. From buying or settling property right through to children’s custody issues and interventions for the elderly; you’ve got to find someone you can relate to, trust and afford.

The first recommendation is usually from a personal referral or a search engine. Most websites for law firms give you clear outlines about what they do, the individual areas of expertise of each lawyer and enough personal information to make you feel you could relate to them.

If you have been given a personal referral to contact, take time to do a  little investigation of your own using the internet. Some history, references and testimonials can be found by asking for more specific information such as  “Lawyer James Brown testimonials.” You’re looking for online reviews, newspaper and internet records and other public comments on the lawyer’s services.

If you like the look of someone, dig a little deeper and see if there have been any complaints, misconduct charges or malpractice accusations  against them by visiting

Your mind is now at ease, you have a lawyer or three in mind to approach. A phone call to their registered offices will be your first introduction. From here it’s communication, the tone of voice and listening skills that will help you make a decision.

The lawyer of your choice should be a good listener and empathetic without over-indulging you. Pity parties are met with positivity, doubts and fears with reassurance as you learn of their abilities.  You give them a brief outline of your situation and inquire about their own experience in this area. An assessment at this point on the cost to value ratio of employing a less experienced lawyer to someone who is more experienced and likely more expensive is well worth considering.

An initial meeting should find you comfortable in their presence. It may be a one-off problem and a somewhat brief relationship or it may be an essential connection that spans many years, so easy communication and trust is very important.

Are they easy to get hold of, will they return your calls and emails in good time and will they keep you informed as to progress? You could test their communication skills before hiring them by withholding a little information and emailing them some questions and seeing how long it takes them to respond. The importance of your case may warrant the extra test of their availability and communication.

Ask directly about their fee structure and be sure to get specific. Is it pay by the hour or a flat fee? Does that include disbursements? Don’t forget the add-ons like court filing fees, letters to other lawyers and family members etcetera. It will help ease your personal stress if you know what you’re up for.