Important Things to Look for when Choosing Legal Counsel
January 24, 2020
Finding the right lawyer isn’t always easy. Most people only need to see a lawyer a few times in their lives, but how do you know which lawyer to choose?
The lawyer you hired to write your will probably isn’t the lawyer who should help you sue your employer for failing to pay overtime. The lawyer who helped you buy your home might not be the right person to help you settle an injury claim.
No lawyer is right for every case or for every client. Here are six important things you should look for when you choose a lawyer to help you with your legal situation.
RapportAs a client, you are going to spend a significant amount of time with the lawyer you hire. If a case goes to trial, you may very well spend hours together in preparation. No one wants to spend that amount of time with someone they dislike.
Clients and lawyers need to communicate with each other effectively. They need to respect each other. Your lawyer needs to understand your specific goals and you as a client need to understand that your lawyer will help you determine whether your goals are achievable.
Communication, respect, and understanding are all part of the rapport that clients should develop with their lawyers. If you decide to interview a few lawyers before you select one, use the criteria listed below to decide whether a lawyer is highly qualified to represent you. Then decide whether you will be able to develop a rapport with that lawyer.
IntegrityEveryone knows a lawyer joke. Most lawyer jokes suggest that attorneys are shady or dishonest. Just to be clear: some lawyers may fit that stereotype. But most do not. Most lawyers are honest, hardworking, ethical, and dedicated to their crafts.
Good lawyers might need to be tough negotiators and aggressive advocates, but they develop those skills to better serve their clients. A lawyer can be strong without being deceitful. Good lawyers know that their reputations are everything. They don’t cheat their clients because they depend on clients to refer their friends who need a lawyer. A satisfied client is the best kind of advertising. Practicing law in a small town, you must maintain integrity. One of our main goals is for our clients to be able to tell their friends “This is a law firm you can trust.”
ExperienceEvery lawyer starts out with little to no experience. Many new lawyers are bright and talented and will have successful careers. When new lawyers handle litigation, they typically start with small, simple cases, often working under the supervision of a more experienced lawyer. After they acquire experience, they begin to work on more complex matters.
As we all know, experience is the best teacher. Just like you, lawyers learn from their mistakes. Experienced lawyers are much more likely to make few mistakes because they have learned how to avoid them.
Experience allows lawyers to gain skills that can’t be acquired in law school, including:
- Negotiating with a seasoned lawyer or insurance adjuster
- Valuing a case for settlement
- Picking a sympathetic jury
- Cross-examining witnesses
- Making effective arguments to juries
- Persuading judges to make rulings that favor a client
If you have a small, simple case, any competent lawyer might be able to handle it well. If you have more at stake, however, you probably want to find a lawyer who has experience.
ReputationLawyers are judged by their clients, by judges, and by their peers. Over time, lawyers develop a reputation. Lawyers who have a reputation for excellence are usually a good choice if they have time to take your case.
One way to learn about a lawyer’s reputation is to ask friends about lawyers they have used in cases that are similar to yours. Are they happy with the representation they received? If your friends praise a lawyer, it might be worth making an appointment to chat with that lawyer about your case.
If a lawyer representing you in an unrelated matter, you might want to ask that lawyer for a referral. For instance, the lawyer who wrote your will or handled your divorce might not do personal injury cases, but will almost certainly be able to recommend attorneys who work in that field of law.
A lawyer’s area of expertise is important. When seeking a lawyer for a particular service it is important to ask about the type of cases that lawyer generally handles. What is the breakdown of that lawyer’s practice? What types of cases and in what area? Or areas of the law does that lawyer generally handle?
Keep in mind that most lawyers are not certified in a specialty, but that does not necessarily mean that a specific lawyer is not an expert in a specific field, particularly where a lawyer handles a high volume of cases in a particular practice area.
CompassionSome attorneys see law as a job. The best lawyers view law as a way to bring justice to people who need help. A good lawyer is compassionate towards his client’s plight.
During an initial interview, lawyers need to ask lots of questions to learn the important facts of the case. But good lawyers listen carefully to the answers and make clear that they understand a client’s concerns.
Good lawyers feel a client’s pain. Lawyers cannot become emotionally attached to clients; because that kind of attachment clouds professional judgment, but good lawyers care about their clients and want to do everything they can to help clients achieve justice through compassion and empathy.
You’ll want a lawyer that possesses these traits listed above, but, most importantly, you’ll want to find someone that you are comfortable with and that you can be open and honest with.
If you’re in need of a lawyer, please contact Isom Stanko & Senter for a consultation today!