A public information resource sponsored by the Law Office of David W. Martin - (800) 229-0546


If you are confronted with a situation that involves a legal issue, you need to know your rights, responsibilities, and options under the law. The best way to do this is usually to find a lawyer who knows about the subject.

If you do not have a lawyer, there are a variety of ways to find one. While some situations involve basic legal issues that most any lawyer should be able to help you with, more complex issues demand specialized knowledge that only a select group of lawyers possess.

If you are wondering whether you should talk to a lawyer, then you probably should – if only to give you the peace of mind that your situation does not present any unexpected potential problems.

A lawyer’s advice may also help to prevent conflicts by addressing potential problems before they arise. If you are considering starting a business venture or doing an important deal or large project, then a lawyer can help clarify the expectations of everyone involved through contracts. Far too often, problems arise because agreements did not clearly define the parties’ rights and responsibilities at the beginning of the relationship.

A common problem for would-be clients is finding the right lawyer for their particular case or issue. The law is so broad that you cannot expect any particular lawyer, or even law firm, to be expert in every field of law.


Attorney fees are completely negotiable, and therefore vary widely. There are also many agencies that provide legal assistance free to those with lower incomes or for specific issues (such as the public defender for criminal cases).

In many types of cases (personal injury, elder abuse, and employment discrimination are typical examples) the lawyer may not charge a fee unless the client receives money (settlement or judgment award) so there is no up-front cost. In these situations, the lawyer does not charge the client, but rather agrees to receive a contingent fee based upon a percentage of the client’s recovery.

Most business and property case are handled on an hourly fee basis and hourly rates vary widely. While there is SOME correlation between price and quality in lawyers,  price is by no means a reliable indicator of quality. Although cost is an important consideration, there are many  important factors you should consider in hiring a lawyer. The most important issue is to make sure you find a lawyer qualified to advise you on the particular issue.


One of the best ways to find a lawyer is by referral from a friend or colleague who had a good experience with an attorney representing them on a similar issue. If that is not an option, then you will be relegated to doing some research. Legal advertising, particularly online, is not necessarily a reliable way to find the right attorney. If you look for a lawyer online, be cautious about the claims made on the site and ask questions that will help make you comfortable that the attorney is experienced and qualified to advise you in the particular subject in which you are seeking assistance.

If you have a pressing legal concern and do not have an attorney to represent you, then you should consider the following:

State Bar of California

The State Bar of California certifies attorneys in various specific specialties, and also regulates attorney referral services. If you don’t have an attorney who specializes in the field in which you need help, then the California State Bar is probably a good place to start.

Local County or City Bar Associations

While this website attempts to provide up-to-date and practical information, it is not intended as legal advice and should not be relied on for any specific legal problem. If you are confronted with a situation that requires the advice of an attorney, you should consult with a qualified specialist in the relevant area. Many county bar associations have legal referral services, and the California State Bar will provide a list of authorized legal referral services that can help you find a qualified specialist in the relevant field of law.

Be Cautious of Advertisements

If you know what kind of attorney you need, then you might find a qualified attorney via the Internet, phone book or other advertisement. Ads are not highly regulated. Lawyers pay to advertise on the internet, television, billboards, in the Yellow Pages and other advertising mediums, but the information in the ad is not necessarily reliable. Don’t simply trust what you see in an advertisement. If you find a lawyer through an ad, ask questions to ensure that the lawyer really knows about the pertinent legal subject.