A local lawyer is a wise choice when it comes to selecting a professional to represent you in your legal matters. It is important that legal issues are handled by a competent pro who knows the law as well as your locale. Here are some tips on choosing a quality representative in your community:

- Laws vary from region to region. While an attorney from a big law firm in a far away city may have a great website or ad in the yellow pages of a phone book, they won't have the intricate knowledge about your home town and community. You want someone who not only knows the legal stipulations of your location, but who knows the townsfolk, history, and culture, as well.

- Decide what you need to have done and then find the appropriate specialty. Attorneys specialize in a variety of law areas such as criminal law, DUI problems, bankruptcy, divorce, business and real estate. It's important to have an attorney who is well versed in your area of need.

- Word of mouth referrals are always a great way to gather names of high quality professionals. Ask family, friends, neighbors and co-workers if they know of a good lawyer. By accumulating a list, you will begin to see certain names appear more often. These are the attorneys to call.

- Experience level is important, too. You may want to read up on cases such as yours in the local libraries archives in order to see which legal counsel was representing successful plaintiffs.

- An initial consultation with a lawyer can provide a great deal of insight into how this professional operates. Check out the office staff, as well, in terms of professionalism, promptness and courtesy. During the consultation, have a list of questions ready and listen not only to the answers but to how this person communicates. A good business relationship is built on effective communication.

- Ask about the fee structure. It's important to find out about this during the first appointment. Fees might be charged by the case, hourly or on a contingency basis. Contingency refers to the method where an attorney is paid a percentage when a settlement is received. Retainers are another possibility. This is a chunk of money collected from the client and held in an account by the law office. Expenses will be drawn from this account as the case progresses.

When it's time to hire a good local lawyer, get references, find out about their fees, specialties and communication style. When all meets with your satisfaction, you have found your legal representative.