What Should I Look For In An Attorney?
How do I know if an attorney is good?
You don’t. So what are the factors you may want to consider?
- Previous/current client reviews
- Results obtained
- Reviews from other attorneys
- Time and Workload
Previous/current client reviews
This is a mixed bag. Some clients may be happy to boast about the results they obtain. Others may be bound by a confidential settlement. And another client may have had unreasonable expectations. However, it’s a tough pill to swallow to believe dozens of past clients have all lied, especially about the same thing. By the same token, one bad review by an anonymous source may not be credible.
Hiring a lawyer, you may want to ask whether they have much experience with that type of case. I don’t put much weight into someone’s sheer year’s of “experience.” For example, a young lawyer with multiple jury trials and hundreds of past cases may have more experience than an older lawyer that does work where he or she rarely has competition.
Much of what some lawyers do is on a contingency fee basis, which means they may only get paid if they prevail (this is a common model for personal injury lawyers). Other work may be charged hourly, and most lawyers that charge hourly charge hundreds of dollars per hour. Getting a cheap lawyer (or expensive lawyer) doesn’t necessarily mean a good lawyer. Also beware that a lawyer may charge a low hourly rate but spend significantly more time than you’d expected. The result is that a lawyer with a higher rate could still be less expensive than a lawyer with a lower rate.
By the same token, you should consider that the lawyer may not be able to deliver as you’d hoped, which could cost you more money than if you’d hired another. Be cautious of ‘guaranteed’ results. Lawyers are not ethically allowed to guarantee a result.
Actions (and even inaction) have consequences. The ‘American rule’ is that each party pays for his or her own attorney fees unless there is a special statute or contract. In some cases, the law (or a contract) may say that you could be responsible for attorney fees. This means that if you exercise your rights over a small amount of money and you lose, you could end up paying way more.
The law is filled with risks. You want a lawyer that has answers or at least, can go find them (and does). The worst situation to be in could be having an attorney who refuses to tell you if he or she does not know an answer.
Reviews from Other Attorneys
Assume you call 10 different attorneys. Each attorney claims to be top notch but when you ask for the name of another attorney they’d recommend in the area, every one of them tells you the same lawyer. It’s true that some lawyers may refer you to their buddies, but consider that most lawyers care more about their reputation and don’t want to recommend one who can’t do the job.
Time and Workload
Good attorneys are typically busy. If you are a potential client, it may not be reasonable to expect an immediate return call or email. If you need immediate attention and responses, be sure to tell that to the attorney at the beginning. We don’t take most cases, and it almost never has anything to do with the other person.