How Can I Find a Good Lawyer in the District of Columbia?
It’s usually not necessary to hire a lawyer to make a living will or medical power of attorney, but there are some situations in which you might want a lawyer’s help. (For a discussion of each of these circumstances, see Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Living Will?)
If you decide you want to consult an attorney, you should look for one with plenty of estate planning experience. That’s the practice area that includes health care directives and powers of attorney.
A few simple tips can increase your chances of finding a good lawyer.
Ask your friends and family. Tell people you know and respect that you are looking for a lawyer to help you prepare health care directives. If they hired a lawyer to make an estate plan in the District of Columbia, put that lawyer on your list of possible candidates.
Ask your accountant or financial adviser. If you work with someone who helps you with taxes or financial planning, that person may know a local lawyer who can assist you. Good financial advisers will often raise the subject of estate planning before you bring it up. If they have professional or personal recommendations, jot them down.
Ask business contacts. People who run their own businesses may have experience with lawyers for lots of reasons — from startup concerns to ongoing contracts. They may even have used a great estate planning lawyer to handle their personal matters. Even if their lawyer knows little about estate planning, they may refer you to someone who knows a lot.
Ask other lawyers. In the same vein, if you have worked with a lawyer for any reason and you were happy with the lawyer’s work, ask for a referral to an estate planning lawyer.
Ask a probate court clerk. These court clerks are in constant contact with estate planning attorneys. This may not work everywhere, but if you live in a smaller community, it can be a great way to get a referral to someone with a good reputation. In any case, it won’t hurt to ask.
Contact the District of Columbia Bar Association or use another lawyer directory. Your last resort should be picking a lawyer at random — say, from an online directory where lawyers pay to advertise or even from a directory on the the District of Columbia Bar website. If you do, be prepared to interview several candidates before picking the best person to advise you.
No matter what method you use to get a referral, it’s wise to ask questions of any lawyer before you hand over your hard-earned money. You can find lists of potential interview questions here and here.