Finding a good lawyer – Answering patron questions about finding a good lawyer in Oregon
A common misconception about law library services is that we can help with lawyer referrals. Many people come in thinking we have a list of lawyers in the area and that we know if they are good or not. As wonderful as it would be to have this information available and to be able to point people towards “the best” lawyer, this is outside of our wheelhouse. However, there are resources we can point people to that have some of that information.
One way to find a lawyer is to ask for a referral from someone you know and trust. Even if that referral is a lawyer who practices in another area of law, they may still be able to make a referral to the specialist lawyer needed.
The Oregon State Bar’s lawyer referral service is a valuable resource. This will allow you a 30 minute consultation with a lawyer in that practice area for $35. The Oregon State Bar also has a modest means program for financial assistance. Other low cost lawyer options include Oregon Law Help (Legal Aid) and St. Andrew Legal Clinic. Both offer free or low cost legal services in some situations (only they can say if they can help or not).
Other common places we will point people to are lawyer directories. Currently the two we use most for referrals are Avvo and Nolo. The availability and usability of lawyer directories change over time so which ones we point people towards also changes.
We also suggest using a search engine (Google, Bing, etc.) to just search for lawyers in the area. When doing so we recommend including the subject (special needs trust, estate planning, etc.) in the search to help weed out lawyers who don’t practice in the area of law someone needs help in.
We also put together a guide for finding legal assistance. While it outlines the lawyer referrals mentioned above, it also includes suggestions on how to determine IF you need a lawyer and what to do to help utilize your time more effectively with them.
This is all information for FINDING a lawyer. But how do we help people to know if a lawyer is a GOOD lawyer? The short answer is we don’t. We can’t. As a law library, we have no way of knowing if a lawyer is a good lawyer or not. Do we cultivate relationships with our lawyer patrons? Of course we do! But that relationship is about their law library interactions. We have no idea if they would be a good lawyer much less a good lawyer for a specific individual. We can show someone the lawyer directory on the bar’s website to search for disciplinary action. We can also show resources on determining a lawyer is a good fit, such as this article from the American Bar Association.
For both finding a lawyer and knowing if the lawyer is a good one, we cannot make determinations for people. We CAN show people resources to help them make their own decisions.