Hiring an attorney can be a daunting task for many not familiar with the law. Just as with any profession, there are good attorneys and not so good attorneys too. Here are a few items to consider in the selection of any trusted advisor:
- Lawyers are Humans
We are all humans. If you think that an attorney has attained some level of humandome unavailable to those of us lesser mortals – WAKE UP! Along with inspiring a feeling of trust, respect and the certainty that you can discuss anything with your attorney; ultimately, you are going to get better service from a practitioner you like. It’s a fact – humans like to do business with humans they like. Do you like your doctor? What about your accountant? Same principle applies to attorneys.
- The Consultation is Key
The consultation is generally where an attorney will meet with the potential client and learn/discuss the merits of the case. Call it a “consultation” but consider it an interview of the attorney. This means if one party takes calls or is otherwise distracted, unpleasant or disrespectful of the other’s time – part ways IMMEDIATELY. Make sure to discuss how/when you are kept informed as a client on the status of your case; a contact telephone number for a support staff member you should contact should the attorney be unavailable; and any other issues regarding the management or details of your case you feel is relevant.
- You are Paying for a Service – Not an Outcome
Everyone forgets this. Throwing gobs of money and hiring only the most costly lawyer has little effect on the outcome of your case – other than assuring the attorney will get a great deal of exposure from your matter should it be newsworthy. Ultimately, you need a champion – someone willing to put in the time and thought required to protect or advance your case. A smart, resourceful associate or single practitioner with lower overhead can be the perfect fit.
- Know The Name and Phone Number of a General Practitioner
You should know the name and phone number of a general practitioner with an office close to your home or business. Unfortunately, many of us only think to locate an attorney when a specific need arises. Often such needs are due to a sad or stressful event – a time when most people are apt to make rushed or emotionally charged decisions. This may include signing a retainer with an attorney simply to move a process along (such as a divorce or probate) rather than to establish a trusted relationship. But you can’t know what type of attorney you will need until the time arises – which is why you should know a good, general practitioner – to use for little items like applying for a permit or working through a traffic violation. This person then becomes a trusted resource for a referral to a specialist, when needed. Think of it like your general doctor who referrals you to medical specialists when needed – same concept only there’s no insurance company footing the bill! 😉 A general practitioner is also a great resource to go over the legal ramifications of an issue or event.
- Laws Don’t Remove the Need for Judgment or Common Sense
The law can be so stupid. This short film [http://www.angelfire.com/film2/mharris] illustrates how breaking something down to the lowest common denominator ends up being where it all began in the first place! Only after numerous law suits and the creation of organizations, institutions and laws to protect the differences rather than advance the common. The law is not always right and a very astute attorney once told me a successful negotiation is where everyone walks away feeling like they lost. Very rarely does one “win” when the judicial system is in play.
In the end, it is up to you – the potential client – to use your best judgment and apply common sense to every situation, including hiring an attorney.