The best lawyer is one who fits your needs and your personality. One of the key things to evaluate is the lawyer’s responsiveness. Factors that you should consider when picking your attorney:
• Does the Attorney Communicate With You? – The Bar Association says that the number one complaint they get about lawyers is that the lawyer does not communicate with the client – does not return phone calls, does not answer e-mails or letters. I hired a lawyer once and then spent weeks trying to find out whether a particular document had been filed. I personally find this astonishing. I keep my clients informed of every development in their cases. I strive to call clients back the same day they call me.
• Do You Deal With The Lawyer You Hired? – A large law firm can be staffed by numerous employees – senior partners, associates, paralegals, secretaries and clerks. I was once in a law firm that was so large, they gave directions by using the artwork on the walls as a guide – “turn left at the suit of armor and then turn right at the big painting of the sailboat.” Some clients find that size reassuring and some major cases need offices that large and fancy. However, it also usually means that the client’s legal work is being done by someone lower on the totem pole than the senior lawyer they hired. I am at the other end of the scale – I am a solo practitioner, currently practicing without staff. If you call my firm, you talk to me. If that level of contact is important to you, I encourage you to hire me.
• Does The Lawyer Try To Achieve YOUR Objectives? – As an appellate lawyer, I hear a lot of stories about trial counsel who did not do what their client asked them to do. They refused to put on evidence, did not prepare for the trial, did not subpoena needed witnesses – the list goes on and on. I also hear about harried criminal defense lawyers who work out plea deals without explaining them to the client. I do not understand these kinds of lawyers. I can understand that sometimes a client’s objective cannot be met, because the law is not in their favor. However, they should explain this to the client and not rest until the client understands. You are the person who is going to have to live with the consequences of your case. I put my client’s needs first.
• How Aggressive Is The Lawyer? – Bar meetings used to be filled with stories of “Rambo” lawyers, who were unprofessionally rude to everyone. They apparently mistook rudeness and aggressive behavior for advocacy. If you want one of those lawyers, do not hire me. I am polite to everyone. I will work with my opposing counsel and treat them with professional respect. If I think it is your best interest, I will encourage you to go to mediation, rather than go through the expense of a hearing. To be perfectly clear – if we do get into a contested hearing, I will zealously argue for your position and will cross-examine opposing witnesses to show that they have flaws in their testimony. However, I will do so politely and professionally.
• How Prepared Is the Attorney? Some attorneys “wing it” at hearings. I am not one of those lawyers. I was taught that trials were won and lost in the library – which was a way of saying that preparation for the hearing was the most crucial part of the case. I will have every exhibit prepared, all of my legal research done, every cross-examination question prepared in advance. I will also prepare you for the hearing – go over the questions I will ask you and the questions you are likely to endure from the other side. If time allows, I will have someone do a “mock cross” of you – grill you aggressively and sarcastically. Most witnesses that I have done this with tell me that my mock cross was much worse than the real thing. If you think that is the best lawyer for you, please contact me.
• Does The Lawyer Have a Good Work/Life Balance? Some law firms work their lawyers to the bone, demanding that they work nights, weekends and holidays. I do not think that is healthy in the long run. I am active at my church, the Austin Center for Spiritual Living www.austincsl.org where I currently serve as President of the CORE Council (the board of directors). I am also an actor, represented by the wonderful people at BLVD Talent. www.blvdtalent.com Through my church and my other activities, I stay in touch with positive, supportive and creative people.