In this segment of “How and Why to Change Your Lawyer in Mid Case,” we consider the lawyer him- or herself. I believe most clients would never have to consider changing lawyers if they had hired the correct lawyer in the first place. In this post we will focus on how to select the right lawyer initially based on your legal needs:
I am frequently surprised to learn how few people realize just how specialized legal representation is in today’s society. The days of the “Old Country Lawyer” who works out of a storefront office located next to the millinery and the barber shop disappeared about the time of the Watergate scandal.
Much the way medicine has developed specialists and subspecialists, so has the practice of law. And I believe one should consider this when hiring a lawyer as it will most likely reduce the chances of wanting to change lawyers later. Therefore, I recommend hiring a legal specialist who is both experienced and competent in your particular litigation.
To help consumers find the most competent and experienced representation, both the American Bar Association and most state bar associations provide designations of legal specialty. In 1982 the Florida Supreme Court also established board certification as a means to help consumers identify lawyers who are specialists in various areas of law, and only six percent of the approximately 4,600 attorneys currently licensed in Florida are board certified. Florida designates 24 specialized fields of law that require a higher qualification to become board certified. To become board certified, lawyers must take and pass a complex written examination and be vetted by judges and fellow lawyers. Currently the Florida’s Bar offers the following specialties:
- Admiralty & Maritime Law
- Adoption Law
- Antitrust & Trade Regulation Law
- Aviation Law
- Business Litigation
- Government Law
- Criminal Appellate
- Criminal Trial
- Education Law
- Elder Law
- Health Law
- Immigration & Nationality
( Mark P. Terry)
- Labor & Employment Law
- Marital & Family Law
- Real Estate
- State & Federal Government & Administrative Practice
- Tax Law
- Wills, Trusts & Estates
Selecting the appropriate lawyer who is well qualified requires that one knows what kind of lawyer the legal claim or matter requires. For example, if a toddler is hurt at a daycare center or at school, one should immediately contact an experienced personal injury lawyer, but for other types of litigation, the choice can be more confusing.
To make matters more confusing still, Florida does have a designated “personal injury law” board certification. In fact, in Florida not only the lawyers who specialize in suing bounce house operators or a Miami daycare on behalf of injured kids but also the attorneys who defend the institutions are considered civil trial lawyers under the state bar’s current designations.
This can often be misleading; for example, a consumer who is looking for a good lawyer for a car accident in Miami and goes to the Florida Bar’s Legal Specialization Website most likely will not realize that Florida’s most experienced personal injury attorneys are classified as “civil trial lawyers.” This is especially confusing for injured parties who do not want to go to “trial” but just would like competent representation and legal advice.
I urge the Florida Bar to consider changing the name of the certification to make it clearer for consumers, or as a minimum, under the title of each certification, adding an explanation as to what area of law the certification designates. For example, consumers may consider the “health law” certification to apply to medical malpractice cases, or the “construction law” certification to construction-site accidents. A few words describing the specialty of each designation will go a long way toward educating consumers to make the best choices when hiring a lawyer, thus avoiding having to change counsel in the middle of a case.
For example, I am a Florida personal injury attorney, and I currently hold three Board Certifications: Civil Trial from the Florida Bar, and the National Board of Trial Advocacy in both Civil Trial and Civil Pretrial.
Only board certified lawyers are permitted to distinguish themselves as specialists in any given area of the law.