After practicing law for over 10 years and meeting with thousands of clients, I have learned about the importance of choosing the right lawyer for the right case. The beginning of the lawyer/client relationship sets the tone for the entirety of the case. Whether you have a divorce matter, boundary line dispute, or have been arrested for a crime, the same suggestions apply when making the important decision of choosing counsel.
Before I outline my observations, I want to point out that not every client and lawyer will be a good fit. The reasons are too numerous to list, but it seems that the personality of the parties may be the most important aspect of problems with attorney/client relationships.
Based on my experience assisting people in our community finding a lawyer for their particular issue and representing people accused of crimes, I have found the following considerations to be very helpful.
1. TURN TO THOSE YOU TRUST – The vast majority of my clients became a client because they were specifically referred by another attorney, former client, or someone else in the community. In these situations, the client asked their friends and/or family about who would be the lawyer to turn to.
2. RESEARCH – There are really only two ways to get the background on a lawyer. The first is to simply make an appointment and conduct an “interview”. You may even want to interview multiple lawyers to see who you feel most comfortable with. Second, you can perform some internet research. This is fairly easy to do by simply doing a Google search on the lawyer or lawyers who you are interested in knowing more about. By doing an internet search on a lawyer, you can find out about their background, disciplinary history, website, former client reviews, and much more.
Obviously, not everything on the internet is true. However, there are many reputable legal websites that provide information on attorneys. Some of these include, but are not limited to, www.lawyers.com, www.avvo.com, www.findlaw.com, and www.martindale.com.
3. REPUTATION – While this aspect of finding a lawyer is similar to talking with trusted friends and family, it is probably wise to ask about a lawyer’s general reputation in the community. Some questions may be: How has the lawyer treated prior clients? Is the lawyer considered trustworthy in the community? Does the lawyer behave in a professional manner? Does the lawyer have the respect of his or her colleagues and the judges who the lawyer appears before?
4. TRUST – I saved this for last because it is by far the most important aspect of the attorney client relationship. Every time I have a potential client enter my office and ask me to represent him or her, I suggest that the client to do one thing. Make sure that you are choosing the lawyer that you truly trust. Whether that is me or someone else, I always ask them to choose the person they are most comfortable with. I would much rather see a person who is in need of legal services hire someone else if they are more comfortable with another lawyer. The level of trust and cooperation during a legal case will have a direct impact on the results of the case. Disaster is inevitable when trust is either non-existent or broken during the pendency of the litigation.
I hope that I have provided some guidance in choosing the right attorney when a legal situation arises. I strongly believe that putting in some time in making this important decision will benefit citizens needing legal counsel in all areas of the law.