If you are stuck with no idea where to start looking for a good tax attorney, especially when you have no time to vet an attorney yourself, go for a referral from trusted friends and families. Some of your connections may have probably been through a tax issue. But most people haven’t and their experience with a tax attorney will be limited.
And, a personal referral to a friend or family member who is a tax attorney may still need to be vetted by some of the following pointers, because this type of referral speaks more to someone’s personal reputation, not necessarily their legal skill level. But, if you do have a network connection that has had a good experience with a tax attorney in the past, you should definitely consider that lawyer.
Most searches for a solution begin with an internet search these days. “Google it” is the standard reply for most people when they don’t have an answer to some question. And this could make sense to you to.
But, searching online can seem a good choice for a home service, like plumbing or pest control, but is it the best choice for something so critical as a tax matter?
The beauty of the internet today (for better or worse), everything is now on the internet. Some of us are glad that we graduated school before the internet! But, from the perspective of business services like tax attorneys, the internet can uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly. And very quickly you can get a list of tax attorneys that you would like to speak with… as well as a list that you will never want to speak with.
When you search for phrases like “tax attorney near me”, or “how do I handle a tax audit letter”, you will get pages of results in your search. Some pay for the privilege to be at the top of the list, while others are listed because they have earned the right to be there because their online presence has a high rating for trust and credibility. So, we recommend that you don’t just click on the first splashy ad or listing that you see.
The top of your search will generally include images of law firms that have paid to be in that top position, usually followed what is referred to as the ‘map pack’. The map helps the searcher understand the listings office location, which is important if you expect to meet with a lawyer in town.
Depending upon how you are viewing the search info (on mobile or desktop) you can usually click on any of the listing in that map pack to see a review summary of Google reviews and Ratings that people have shared. You will generally only want to deal with those attorneys with ‘5 Star’ reviews.
Once you have identified several lawyers on the search list, click through to their websites and see more information about them and their services. Now, we know that this website information is about the only thing on the internet that a business has 100% control over, but it does give you a sense of who they are. If they have any videos on the website, watching a few will help you determine if they have a personality and poise that you would be comfortable working with on your tax matter.
Most local attorneys practicing law in the area are listed in a referral directory complete with their profile and approved by the bar association. You can access the Atlanta Bar Association’s website, the Cobb County Bar Association’s website, or your particular County Bar association. Ask them for a referral and they will give you a list. But this process may not be as quick as some would like. And it is then upon you to screen them and decide which ones you want to engage. This might sound time consuming but at least you have the lawyers list already complete with their credentials.
Besides the Bar Association referral options, there are websites that focus on listings of lawyers in your area. The top websites in this category are AVVO, Justia, and Findlaw. These website names may be familiar to you if you have done any internet searches on this topic already. They dominate the listings. How do they do that? Because they sell the listings to the lawyers and promise to promote them. They do not list all attorneys in your area. And they charge for the privilege of being at the top of their lists. BUT they do allow clients of the attorneys to review them which can help you get a better ‘picture’ of a tax attorney’s success rate.
Hopefully, your search will create a short list of lawyers that seem to meet your criteria. What should you do next?
You will want to reach out to each candidate and ask for a phone interview (as a minimum) to let you ask them about their case and get some initial thoughts. If the lawyer will not do that without a fee, they are not the right one for you.
When starting the process of vetting the attorneys one by one, you want to get a confirmation that you are speaking with the lawyer that will be handling your case. Many times, a lead attorney will interview a prospective client and then hand the case off to a junior (less experienced) attorney. If you are not speaking to the attorney who would handle your case personally, ask if that person could join the call.
While speaking with the attorney, be keen on things like their personality and professionalism. Ask questions related to the topic at hand to measure their knowledge experience and competence. Without asking for specifics, ask them about similar cases that they might have been involved with to see if they have the experience specific to your particular case.
Hiring a lawyer isn’t something to be taken lightly, it is a serious matter. Tax debt, whether its contested or it is due to evasion or fraud can escalate to the point of going to court and a subsequent jail term plus penalties. This will depend on how large the tax amount is. Getting the best tax attorney is therefore a good start to preventing this.