"How do you find a lawyer? Are there specific lawyers for specific problems?"- MM

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that has you thinking "I'm calling my lawyer!", and then realise that you don't actually have a lawyer, worse still, you don't even know where to find a lawyer.

If you read the newspapers you would think there are law graduates under every rock and behind every door, which is sort of true but that doesn't mean that there is a massive surplus of lawyers all just wanting to help you.  In fact, depending on where you live you might struggle to find one lawyer, let alone a pack of them. 

No one goes to see a lawyer when everything is great and when you're having a great day and life is just wonderful and perfect. Unless of course you are proactive and love the people in your life and you go to see a lawyer about drafting your will when everything is just peachy- no, seriously, do it, anyway;

Here are some tips on how to find a lawyer:

  1. First, understand what you need a lawyer for. What kind of problem do you have? Has someone stolen from you? Have you been injured at work? Have you got visa problems? Have you got a fight with your neighbour about a fence? Do you need to get an intervention order on someone? Are you being stalked? Do you need help on starting a company?  

    There are so many reasons to engage a lawyer and you will be doing yourself a favour and maybe saving a little money in knowing what you need help or information about.
  2. Once you know, or have a general idea about what you need a lawyer for, ask around. You can ask Google, colleagues, family friends, or other people you know who have been or are in the same situation.  

    Don't immediately rush to the assumption that just because a lawyer advertises, or is indexed high on Google that they're necessarily the right lawyer for you, or for your problem. Do a bit of research- I really think asking people you trust what lawyer they trust is the best way to find someone you'll trust.

    Depending on your problem you may be able to ask other professionals like an accountant, financial advisor, doctor, counsellors, etc who they may recommend if anyone. If you've used a lawyer before but they can't help you now because they don't practice the kind of law you need help with you can ask them who they can recommend.
  3. Call around. Speak to the law firm's reception and ask if they practice in the type of law you need and if they have lawyers who have the time and willingness to take on new clients with your issue.  

    Remember, you retain a lawyer not the other way around so you need to get a good vibe from them.  Depending on your issue you can ask them to meet with you just so you get a bit of information about them, ask them what kind of similar cases they've run, how they approach solving problems- whatever.  You are their client, not the other way around- obviously, this depends on your reason for wanting a lawyer.  If your problem is urgent you may not want to meet with a lot of them to suss them out, use your discretion.
  4. Lawyers can be expensive.  Yes- they can be, that's no secret or a lie. You may qualify on state help through Legal Aid if you meet their strict criteria, or you may find a lawyer that can take on your case on a no win- no charge basis, or you may be lucky enough to have a community legal centre nearby.  If your problem is work related and you are a member of a union you can contact them too.

    Alternatively you could just pay for their services yourself. Regardless, a lawyer needs to give you an upfront scale of costs you are likely to incur before you retain them to help you. Explore your options, the Law Institute of Victoria has a great service where they refer you to a list of lawyers who have agreed to see clients for their first 30 minutes for free to give them some guidance and assistance as to what kind of help they are likely to need.

    Yes, lawyers can be expensive but be upfront about your ability to pay, not only will that clarify expectations between you and them, but they can also work with you on ways to either help you obtain funding for your case, or even guide you to solve your problem yourself if possible.
  5. Yes- lawyers have specialties.  Much like doctors, different lawyers specialise in a variety of things.  You would be surprised at the number of different subspecialties of law and lawyers, so I won't list them here.  All lawyers practicing in Victoria must meet certain educational criteria, regardless of where they studied.  They also need to meet continuing education criteria to be able to continue practicing.

    If, for example, you want a lawyer that specialises in criminal matters, or in family law, contact the Law Institute of Victoria and ask to be put in contact with a lawyer that is certified as a specialist in a variety of fields.

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