Should I go to a lawyer or law firm who engages in general practice or to a specialist?
UPDATED: April 20, 2011
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident law decisions. Finding trusted and reliable legal advice should be easy. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
The best way to answer that question “Should I use a general practice lawyer or specialist?” is to ask yourself "How do you decide whether to go to a physician who is in general practice or to a specialist?" Your answer probably is, "It depends." That is also our answer. There is no hard and fast rule. In general, the more important the matter is in terms of its financial consequences, or your liberty, the more likely you would want to have the benefit of the experience and judgment of a lawyer who specializes in the area.
When is a general practice lawyer best?
If you are unsure of who to go to, it is usually best to start with a general practice lawyer or general practicing law firm. This offers two advantages. First, most general practice attorneys will offer a free consultation to hear your case. This gives you a chance to see if they are at all able to help you. If the general practice attorney has done your type of case before successfully, then they will say so and offer you a contract. If they are unfamiliar with your particular need, they are also responsible for being honest about their inexperience. Sometimes they may be able to complete the work themselves, if not they will typically be able to refer you to a specialist.
The second advantage is that if you use a larger general practice firm, they may already have the specialist you require on staff. For instance, many general business law firms have separate attorneys who handle business filings, tax issues and even estate planning for their clients.
When should I go to an attorney that specializes in a particular area?
If your case involves only one type of law, and you know what the type of law is, then you should go to a specialist. For instance, if you were arrested for a DUI, you should immediately contact a criminal attorney.