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HOW TO CHOOSE AND USE A LAWYER
You should choose a lawyer as you would a doctor, dentist, accountant or anyone who provides services. The fact that you are seeking a professional as opposed to a product should make no difference in your approach. Comparison shop. Check the credentials of different attorneys. Discuss fees with them candidly. And, whatever you do, don't forget to talk with them about the wisdom of retaining legal counsel. For example, does it make sense to spend $500 in legal fees and court costs to recover a $100 bad debt?

How do you look for a lawyer? The first and obvious step is to define the nature of your legal problem. You will be wasting both your time and an attorney's if you bring a simple real estate transaction to a lawyer who practices only criminal defense. Once you have defined the problem, there are a number of ways to find a lawyer to help you with it. If you need additional information or help choosing a lawyer you can also visit the following resources: Lawyer Referral Service and Reduced Fee Program.

How Do You Find a Lawyer?
PERSONAL REFERRAL
Most people seeking a lawyer begin by asking advice from a personal acquaintance or someone whose opinion they value, such as a family member, a minister, or another lawyer. Other common referral sources are employers, law school teachers and administrators, labor unions, consumer groups, public interest organizations, and women's associations.

LAWYER REFERRAL SERVICE
The Rhode Island Bar Association has a Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to competent and reliable lawyers. Under the LRS plan a lawyer will consult with you on a legal problem up to a half hour for free and then render whatever other services are requested for a fee you both agree upon. If he or she cannot handle your problem, you will be referred to another attorney who can.

LAWYER REFERRAL FOR THE ELDERLY
Everyone aged 60 or older is eligible for a free 30-minute consultation with an attorney. To be eligible for the reduced fee or pro bono (free) program, your income must be within certain guidelines.

PRO BONO PROGRAM
The Rhode Island Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer Program, funded through a grant from R.I. Legal Services, Inc. and the Rhode Island Bar Foundation, provides pro bono (free) legal services to low-income Rhode Islanders. Participating attorneys provide services at no charge to completion of the case. Clients are responsible for filing fees, court costs and other out-of-pocket expenses. To be eligible, income must qualify under federally regulated guidelines. Also, your legal problem must fall under one of the areas of law which are handled by the VLP.

LAWYERS FOR THE ARTS
The Lawyers for the Arts is a component program of the Lawyer Referral Service of the Rhode Island Bar Association that provides legal assistance to artists and arts related organizations. Reduced fee and pro bono services may be available depending upon income eligibility. Please call the Lawyer Referral Service at 421-7799 for additional information.

MARTINDALE HUBBELL LAW DIRECTORY
You also can find some answers at the public library in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, which for more than 100 years has published as complete a roster as possible of the lawyers in the United States and Canada. The directory gives brief biographical sketches of many lawyers and describes the legal areas in which law firms practice.

You can follow certain steps when you contact a lawyer whose advertisement you have read or heard.
Don't take the ad literally; ask the lawyer for references and check his or her experience with your type of case.
Ask the lawyer about the services advertised and what they include, for example, a "simple will," or a "simple divorce."
Discuss fees openly, ask what services they cover, and whether there will be any extra charges.
Finally, keep a copy of the ad so that you can check to see whether the lawyer is performing as advertised.

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