How to Choose a Good Lawyer – Quick Top 10 Tips


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.


10. Competency

A good lawyer should be knowledgeable in their area of expertise. Ask specific questions like you would any person your interviewing for a job.

Counter point: 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; chronic indications.

Counter point: 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 in Writing

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.

Counter point: 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 Record

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.

Counter point: 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.


3. Honest Expectations

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.

Counter Point: 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



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Mary Fales

Patent Attorney