Need a good doctor, lawyer, or contractor? FIRST polled the experts for the best ways to track down trustworthy professionals who can really help you!
To pinpoint the best doctor: Ask your pharmacist
With 25 percent of doctors over the age of 45 retiring in the next two years, finding a GP you’re happy with can be tough. The best way to zero in on a five-star doc? “Turn to your pharmacist,” urges Anna Inglett, CEO of Putnam Health Advocates in Tampa. “They hear about doctors from their customers and have insider knowledge you can benefit from.” Also, make appointments to meet with physicians to assess if you like their style. “Some will simply tell you what to do,” observes Inglett. “Others take a collaborative approach and are open to your suggestions.”
To find a trustworthy lawyer: Ask these questions
With more than 1 million lawyers in the US, how to zero in on the one you should hire? “Plug the expertise you’re seeking and your location into the free lawyer-review website Martindale.com,” says attorney Sabrina Shaheen Cronin, founder of the Cronin Law Firm, PLLC, in Michigan. When you set up a consultation with a couple of candidates, ask if it’s complimentary (some lawyers do free consultations over the phone!) and ask two key questions: “How many cases have you handled like mine?” and “Can I talk with past or current clients?” Also important: Make sure you’re comfortable. “Legal matters are so personal,” notes Cronin. “The relationship with your lawyer should ease stress, not add to it.”
To hire the right contractor: Ask your neighbors
Up to 70 percent of us choose a handyman or contractor based on review sites like Angie’s List and Porch. “Unfortunately, a contractor’s track record could have changed since they were first listed,” says home-renovation expert Jody Costello, founder of Contractors From Hell. A better bet: Ask neighbors who they hired or post a request for recommendations on the message board Nextdoor, which sends your query to folks in your area. And be insurance-savvy, cautions Costello: “Some contractors buy short-term coverage, then 90 days later, it lapses.” Just call the contractor’s insurance company to verify that their coverage lasts for the entire duration of your project.
Avoid unnecessary fees
Get the reason for medical tests: Doctors who order unnecessary tests are raking in cash for themselves while costing patients more than $200 billion every year. Before you have tests, simply ask what each is for. If there isn’t a clear reason, consult with another doctor and ask if the test is necessary.
Ask lawyers for a flat fee: In a recent survey, 66 percent of lawyers admitted to being aware of colleagues who padded their clients’ bills with unnecessary fees. To avoid this trap, ask for a flat fee or request that expenses be itemized on your invoice.
Never prepay contractors in full: Some contractors take big down payments, never to return again. A few states, like Maryland and California, have set a contractor down payment limit, ranging from 10 percent to 33 percent. But in general, if they ask for more than 50 , take it as a sign to find someone else.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.