You are here: Home Planning Ahead Lawyers 101 How To Choose A ... Summary
Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


Once you've identified the type of lawyer you need, and various candidates, check on the lawyer's background before meeting each possible candidate.

Prepare questions ahead of the meeting. Add questions as they come to you on Survivorship A to Z's Prioritizer. It allows you to re-order questions at the touch of a button. Then you can print the list before the meeting.

After the meeting, think about:

  • Which lawyer seems most likely to win your case.
  • The fee arrangement.
  • Whether you feel comfortable enough to discuss all aspects of the case.
  • The lawyer's schedule. If a terrific lawyer is involved in a large case which demands substantial time and effort, will your work be shunted to the bottom of the pile?

For more information, see:

How To Learn About A Lawyer's Background

Martindale-Hubbell lists biographies of lawyers. Most lawyers are rated by peers for legal ability and ethics. offsite link - click on "Lawyer Locator." No cost.

You may also be able to find information about a lawyer through the state or local bar association. (A bar association is an association of lawyers.) The website of the American Bar Association has a link to the disciplinary agency in each state. You can check to see whether the person is a licensed attorney. Some states also list disciplinary actions taken against lawyers. Other states will only give you that information if you request it in writing. For contact information for your state bar association, see: offsite link.

Also consider online rating services such as:

  • offsite link ranks lawyers by a score of 1 to 10.
  • offsite link rates lawyers on a scale of 1 to 5. The reviews contain comments by clients.

Questions To Ask A Lawyer

At least consider the following when choosing a lawyer:

  • How much of the lawyer's time and involvements relate to the general subject for which you're seeing the lawyer (for example, health care)?
  • How much of that time is spent on situations like yours?
  • Does the lawyer answer all your questions?
  • Do you understand the lawyer's answers?
  • Will the lawyer handle your case personally or will he or she be assisted by other lawyers, paralegals or other people? Will the lawyer hand your case over to another lawyer totally?
  • What are the costs involved?
  • If there is a retainer, how much will it cost? Against what hourly billing? How long does the lawyer think the retainer will last? What does he or she project as the overall cost -- and over what period of time?
  • If the costs are more than your available cash, will the lawyer work for a lesser fee? Accept a payout over time?
  • Will the lawyer work on a contingency basis? If so, click here. If not, what is the hourly fee for each of the different attorneys who will work on your case?
  • Look for a lawyer with no conflict of interest. A conflict of interest means the lawyer has an interest other than yours that he or she may consider in addition to your own interest. For example, a lawyer who represents an employee who has a claim against an employer and also represents the employer, even if only in matters that have nothing to do with the employee. When working for the employee, the lawyer would have a conflict because he would not want to jeopardize receiving other work from the employer.
  • Look for a lawyer with whom you feel comfortable discussing your case, including any embarrassing details. A skillful lawyer won't be much of a help if you don't feel free to share all relevant information with him or her.
  • Are you comfortable in the office? With the lawyer's staff?
  • Will the lawyer propose that you sign an engagement or retainer letter outlining in writing the terms of a legal agreement between you and the lawyer?