What distinguishes us and our practice is the personal one-on-one attention you will receive as a client. As attorneys, we are here as a counselors to help you arrive at the best decision for the legal matters that have become issues in your life. We cannot make decisions for you and ethically under the Rules of Professional Conduct we are not allowed to, but we are here to guide you and provide you with options and answers. Although some of our brethren with whom we share membership in the bar may take umbrage at what is discussed below, there are some dirty little secrets that most attorneys don’t want you, the client, to know. Besides, we’ve never been shy about ruffling a few feathers.
Firstly, we attorneys don’t know everything. In fact, we don’t know a lot of things. Every case is unique and each new set of circumstances provides its own problems to solve. There is an inherent learning curve necessary for the lawyer to see the matter from your perspective. Secondly, we work for you. Attorneys are also known as Counselors, and we should be doing exactly that, counseling, advising and helping you reach the right decision for your circumstance. Finally, the attorney/client relationship is like a marriage, both sides need trust, honesty, and the ability to get along. A bad relationship can rake you through the coals just like a bad marriage.
Here are ten observations to consider when choosing the right attorney for you. These same criteria should apply even if you decide to interview our firm.
- Diplomas do not mean everything. General common sense goes a long way. Look at the attorney’s client base, the type of work the attorney has performed and listen to the ease of knowledge of the subject matter or lack thereof in answering the questions you present to them. Their knowledge should be relevant to the matter that you have brought to their office. Are you seeking a litigator, a corporate attorney or just a general practitioner?
- Can you work with this person? Do you feel comfortable with the attorney? Is the attorney condescending or does the attorney treat you like a person of equal intelligence, ready to educate you to the appropriate rules of law and strategy?
- Is the attorney too aggressive? Yes, sometimes attorneys can be too aggressive and blow a deal out of the water. Does the attorney immediately want to proceed to litigation and fight, or examine the alternatives and try to seek solutions that will resolve a matter quickly, allowing you to go on with your life? Remember, you want a tough attorney who will act as your advocate, but one who will also guide you to the right alternatives that are equitable and cost effective.
- Is the attorney looking at the facts you present, or trying to build a case which will build his or her billable hours?
- Is this a person who is available, accessible, and ready to counsel you and lead you to the right decision? The key word again is “counsel.” Is this someone who is willing to take the time to help determine the proper course for you and your cause of action?
- Is this attorney mindful of your financial considerations? How does the attorney’s firm bill? By the hour, fixed fee, contingency? What other hidden or additional costs might creep into your bill? Meals, transportation, photocopies, secretarial time? Understand fully your possible financial exposure.
- Do you feel more comfortable with a small firm or a large firm? Is your matter relatively minor that you may get lost in the shuffle of a big firm or is it so large that it may overwhelm the resources of a small firm?
- Rudeness is never a virtue. Not towards an adversary and definitely not towards the client. A case should never be about the attorney’s ego or a game of one ups-man-ship with the adversarial lawyer. That kind of behavior generally prevents you from getting the best and most fair deal possible.
- Is the attorney attentive? Does the attorney return your call in a timely manner? Is the attorney texting or tweeting while you’re talking? However, you must remember as well that all attorneys, by necessity, have to juggle several cases and clients at once. You can’t feel that you “own” all of your attorney’s time.
- You will likely need a lawyer for other matters in the future. Is this person suited to maintain and develop a professional relationship with you over the long term?