Most of us share all the time, and we rarely need advice from a lawyer. You'll definitely be able to write your own simple agreements. You can even handle somewhat complicated sharing agreements yourself, using the material we provide in this book. However, this book can't fully prepare you to write every type of sharing contract on your own. If you need help from a lawyer, here are some good ways to find one:
- Personal referrals. If you know any lawyers, start by asking them for referrals to the type of lawyers you need. Most lawyers specialize in one area of the law, so unless your friend is an expert in the field you need, you're better off getting a referral from that person to a specialist. If you don't know any lawyers, maybe someone you know—a friend or family member—knows a lawyer or has used one in the past. A personal referral is often a good way to find a lawyer, but make sure you interview the lawyer yourself before signing on. It's important that you feel comfortable with the lawyer's skills and demeanor.
- Lawyer directories. There are a number of lawyer directories available on the Internet. Nolo's Lawyer Directory, at http://lawyers.nolo.com, offers comprehensive profiles of the lawyers who advertise there, including each attorney's education, background, areas of expertise, and philosophy. Other lawyer directories include www.findlaw.com, www.avvo.com, and www.martindale.com. These allow you to search by geographical area and specialty, but often provide limited information in their listings. Many attorneys also have websites that can be a rich source of information.
- Lawyer referral services. Many local bar associations operate lawyer referral services, which do some of the searching for you, but leave you with less choice about the lawyer you connect with. Also, bar associations do very little screening of the attorneys on their lists, so a lawyer's experience level can be a hit-or-miss proposition.
Interview the lawyer before you agree to hire him or her. Once you decide to hire someone, get a clear written agreement about the work the lawyer will do and how much you will pay.
If you'd like to do some legal research on your own, pick up a copy of Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law , by Stephen Elias and Susan Levinkind (Nolo). It explains how to look up statutes, cases, and regulations, and how to make sense of what you find.