When a person is faced with a legal issue and does not know where to turn, seeking out a lawyer can be overwhelming. There are thousands of attorneys in practice, and finding the right one can be a challenge.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of resources to help a person find the right lawyer to talk to about their case. If a person is looking for a lawyer for help in New York State, there are more than a few places where a person can search for a lawyer they can trust.
Does the State Bar Association Offer Referrals?
For a person seeking legal help in New York, the state bar association is a great place to start. Many state bar associations offer lawyer referral services, which can ease the burden of a search for legal representation.
A person can briefly explain their situation and receive information regarding attorneys who practice law most likely to be relevant to the person’s issue. The referral service provided by the New York State Bar Association provides referrals for hundreds of New York attorneys covering more than 44 counties in New York State.
Information that a person gives to the state bar referral service is considered confidential, and the service is free to use. Referrals through the state bar service generally charge $35 for the first 30 minutes of a person’s initial consultation. However, a few situations will allow for a free consultation under very specific circumstances.
Are There Local Referral Services for a New York Lawyer?
If a person is in one of the counties not served by the state bar referral service, they may find that their local bar association offers a referral service. Nearly every county in New York has its own bar association.
For example, Erie and Richmond Counties have bar associations. New York City also has an association that offers referral services. These local associations usually also offer a pre-negotiated low fee for an initial consultation, typically between $20 to $40 depending on the area.
Several legal professional associations focus on specific areas of the law or specific interest groups that offer referral services. For example, the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and the National Employment Lawyers Association – New York Chapter both provide referrals and field requests for legal help. Some of these associations also occasionally provide free legal clinics for people with low to moderate incomes, those who may not otherwise be able to afford the services of an attorney.
What Are Private Attorney Referral Services?
In addition to contacting their local bar associations, there are also many private referral services that a person might contact. These private services offer to match a person’s need with attorneys who work in their location and practice in the specific areas of law most likely to be helpful to the person’s case.
Many of these private referral services are available online, 24 hours a day, and provide multiple referrals so that a person can find exactly the person to whom they want to talk. Most of these services also provide a little background or additional information about the attorneys to whom they refer the person.
Private referral services are usually free to use, and have pre-negotiated reduced rates for the initial consultation with a person’s selected lawyer. In many cases, the initial consultation fee can range between $0 and $50.
If a person can identify the specialty that the lawyer they consult needs to have, they might consult non-profit organizations for possible referrals. For example, if a person wants to adopt a child, they might contact the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA). This organization comprises approximately 500 attorneys who practice adoption and assisted reproduction. They claim to be highly competent and dedicated to ethical practice.
Another example is the Community Associations Institute. This non-profit organization offers various resources regarding homeowners associations (HOAs), condominium associations, and cooperatives. Its website offers access to a College of Community Association Lawyers Directory through which a person can search for an attorney with experience in the law of HOAs and condominium associations.
What If I Do Not Have the Money to Hire a Lawyer?
If a person knows they do not have the money to hire a lawyer, they have several options, depending on their legal issue.
If a person has been charged with a crime, the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a person accused of a crime the right to be represented by an attorney. If a person cannot afford one, the court provides the person with a lawyer if the crime charged could result in imprisonment for 6 months or more.
In some states, the state constitution may guarantee a person charged with a crime the right to a lawyer for crimes even if a conviction would not lead to imprisonment for at least 6 months. If a person cannot afford a lawyer, then at the person’s arraignment, the judge appoints a public defender who is a government employee or a private lawyer who the government pays to represent the person.
For civil cases, legal aid societies may offer free or low-cost legal services to represent a person with a civil issue. A person does not have a right to be represented by a lawyer in a civil case. But some non-profit organizations offer representation for a low cost or no cost. For example, they might represent a person in an eviction or if they are in financial trouble with a creditor.
A person can search online for a legal clinic or legal aid society in their community. A person wants to be cautious in this search because many advertisements online look like they link to a true legal aid society but do not. A true legal aid society is a non-profit organization that provides low-cost or no-cost legal representation to people who cannot afford a lawyer.
Most legal aid programs have criteria to determine who is eligible for their services. Eligibility would depend on several factors, including a person’s income.
Some employers, labor unions, credit unions, and other groups offer legal insurance plans that may give a person access to a lawyer at an affordable cost. Many of these insurance plans cover at least part of the cost of legal consultations, preparation of documents such as wills, and representation in court for routine legal matters. Other plans may only cover a consultation with a lawyer. Before purchasing insurance for legal problems, a person would want to ensure they understand what kind of coverage it offers.
A person’s insurance policies, e.g., homeowner’s and car insurance, might pay for a lawyer to represent them if they are sued. For example, if someone is injured on a person’s residential property, their homeowner’s insurance may pay for a lawyer to defend them if the victim files a lawsuit against them. The same is true with car insurance. So, if a person is sued in connection with an event in their home or involving their car, they want to notify the appropriate insurance company.
What Should I Know Before My First Meeting with a Lawyer?
Most first meetings are only about 30 minutes, so a person wants to ensure they are organized before they step into the attorney’s office. A person should gather all the documents and materials they believe are relevant to their case and be prepared to give the attorney as much true and accurate information about their situation as possible.
It is also a good idea for a person to prepare a list of questions they may have before their appointment to remember what to ask while there. A person should definitely ask questions about the attorney’s fees if the attorney takes their case on. Then a person wants to take notes about what the attorney tells them in answer to their questions.
Remember that a person is not required to hire an attorney just because they have had an initial consultation. One can talk to several attorneys before selecting one to work for them. If a person decides not to hire an attorney after speaking to several, that is okay, also.
Should I Consult a New York Lawyer?
If you need legal help in New York, you should talk to an experienced New York lawyer. The right lawyer can help talk you through your situation and give professional advice on the best way to proceed and protect your rights. If you decide that a lawsuit is necessary, your lawyer can also prepare the necessary documents, represent you in court, and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.