When you need an estate and probate lawyer, you want to know that you are hiring somebody knowledgeable, honest and efficient. But if you are not a lawyer, it can be difficult to identify lawyers that meet those requirements. Of course, we are going to tell you that Stotis & Baird offers great lawyers, but honestly every law firm is going to say that. Here are some suggestions to help you seek out the right lawyer for your family.
Word of Mouth
This is the way that most people would prefer to choose a lawyer, and it is one of the best ways. If you know somebody who has hired a lawyer and been happy with their work, that is a pretty good sign. When considering a word-of-mouth referral, however, keep in mind a few things:
- Did the person who is recommending this lawyer actually hire them?
If they are recommending the attorney because they are a friend or neighbor, they may not actually know much about the lawyer’s skills.
- Is the person recommending this lawyer knowledgeable?
A recommendation from a lawyer or somebody familiar with estates and probate work is in a better position to know who is a good lawyer
- Did that person have a similar legal problem?
The right lawyer for a 10 million dollar estate may not be the right lawyer for a $200,000 estate. Consider whether the lawyer that is being recommended is a good fit for you.
Connection to the Community
Just because a person is involved in local charities and events, does not mean that they are a good lawyer. On the other hand, it would be good to pick an attorney who is practicing for the long haul. Lawyers who get involved in charities and organizations in your community that are relevant to their practice are probably going to be around when you need them. Especially with wills and trusts, you hope to pick a lawyer or firm who will be around in 10 years or more.
Lawyers who want to stay current in their area of practice join professional associations. For example, most serious elder law attorneys join the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Membership in the Illinois State Bar Association is also a good sign. Look for a lawyer who is taking the time to be involved in these organizations.
Rating Companies (sometimes)
There are many organizations that rate lawyers. Super Laywers, Leading Lawyers and Martindale Hubbell are just a few. Others, such as AVVO, rate lawyers and also allow clients to post comments and reviews. Our advice about these services is to take them with a grain of salt. It can be useful to check these sources. However, there is also a business aspect to these ratings. Most companies that offer these ratings make money by selling advertising to lawyers. There are great lawyers that simply never spend time developing their profile on online rating services. When it comes to reviews by clients, they can be helpful, but sometimes misleading. By definition, the law can be contentious. Great lawyers who represent people in serious disputes will sometimes have disgruntled clients and get bad reviews. The only way to avoid that would be to never take a tough case.
Whatever you do to narrow down the list, you should sit down with your potential lawyer and see if it’s a good fit. Most lawyers will agree to a free initial consultation. Some will even agree to meet with you at your home or nearby. Come with your list of questions and see if you are satisfied with the answers. Don’t be shy about asking about the cost of services, their experience with this type of case and other uncomfortable topics. A good lawyer will be able to candid with you about the cost of the services. If you don’t feel comfortable communicating with them in the interview, go somewhere else.
The time when you need an estate and probate lawyer is often a difficult time for your family. When a family member dies, it can be hard to know what to do, and it can be emotionally draining. Even thinking about routine estate planning can be hard. Take the time to seek out a lawyer that you confident about.
Article written by Stotis & Baird Chartered Attorney Eric Parker. Eric’s office is in Chicago, but he routinely meets with his clients in his home community of Evanston and in Skokie and throughout the North Shore. Eric volunteers with the North Shore Village, Senior Connections, several senior agencies in Skokie, Evanston and Wilmette. For what it’s worth (given what he said in this article) Eric has been included on the Illinois “Super Lawyers” list for a number of years and has received a rating of 10/10 from AVVO.