How to Choose a Good Lawyer – Quick Top 10 Tips
Choosing the right lawyer can make all the difference. But
how does one pick a good lawyer? I’ve been a client and I’m an attorney, so I
wanted to present my best tips from both perspectives.
A good lawyer should be knowledgeable in their area of
expertise. Ask specific questions like you would any person your interviewing
for a job.
many lawyers have the skills and tools to ramp up quickly on a new area of law.
9. Used Car Salesman
A good lawyer will not pressure you to accept representation
and pursue options you don’t feel comfortable doing. Does it feel like they
have their interests ahead of yours?
Counter point: a
good lawyer may be “pressuring” you for good legal reasons. Try and discern
competent legal protection from the used car salesman.
8. Shop Around
For some reason most people don’t shop around when it comes
to choosing a doctor or lawyer. Take advantage of free initial consultations
and talking with other lawyers before making a decision.
Counter point: a
good lawyer may have a sound reasons not to represent you (e.g. conflict, too
busy). Don’t feel like you have a hopeless case and have to hire the next
available attorney you meet.
7. Has the Time
A good lawyer will not represent you unless they have the
bandwidth. Signs that an attorney is too busy: not returning calls, not
prepared for meetings, overlooking issues, filing too many extensions of time,
canceling appointments, and waiting to the very last minute to file. Think;
some attorneys can juggle multiple cases well: if the case seems to be on the
right track, then its probably fine, even if they are very busy.
6. Signed Agreement
A good lawyer always has an engagement agreement for you both to sign. Most states have
requirements that agreements be in writing. Engagement agreements reduce
misunderstandings, especially, with regard to work scope and billing.
sometimes the situation calls for action before there is time to sign an
agreement, and most states have exceptions for emergency situations.
5. Honest Billing
A good lawyer will bill honestly. Different levels of experienced
attorneys get paid differently. So if a paralegal or associate attorney works
on your case, then their hourly rates should show up on the invoice. Invoices
that hardly show any variations in time charged, vague descriptions, and no rate
differences are suspect.
Counter point: it
is common to charge for paper, mailing costs, and driving time etc. Just
because they charge for these items, don’t assume they’re billing dishonestly.
4. Clean Disciplinary
A good lawyer will not have any disciplinary actions on
their record. Think; tip of the iceberg. You can look up an attorney’s record
on the state bar website they are registered in.
some attorneys are the victims of unreasonable clients, or made honest
mistakes, and just because an action was filed may not mean the attorney is a
bad one. It depends on the facts of the situation.
A good lawyer will provide honest expectations. If you hear
things like “Don’t worry. Trust me. I’ll take care of it all,” or “I’m really
great, you have nothing to worry about.” This is a bad sign. In order for you
to make informed decisions, you need to be fully informed.
some attorneys sensing you’re distressed may say something comforting. However,
when you ask for the cons, they should be forthcoming.
2. Communicates Well
A good lawyer will keep you informed and return your phone
calls. I’ve heard some attorney’s make excuses like “I’m not my client’s
counselor, I’m their divorce attorney.” You may run up your bill calling a lot,
but the right attorney will meet your needs, or help you create a healthy realistic
professional relationship if possible.
Counter point: a
client who appears to be emotionally “unstable” is a bad sign, because the
attorney feels that the client can’t or won’t accept realistic expectations.
1. I’ve Got a Bad
Feeling About This...
If things are not ideal at the start, or you feel something
isn’t right, then run. It will only get worse not better. Trust your instincts
even if you are under pressure to find a lawyer quickly. That is why most people
advise others to find a lawyer ahead of time, before you have to have one, so you can have time to shop wisely. If you sense
“my way or the highway,” take the highway!
Counter point: the
lawyer may not be aware of things you don’t like. Discussing it with the lawyer
may resolve the problems.
San Diego Patent
Prep & Pros, Inc.
Mary Fales, Patent Attorney, President
January 13, 2016