10 Things to Think About When Hiring an Attorney
1. Is the Lawyer Experienced Enough? Graduating from law school and passing the bar exam is a requirement to practice law. However, new lawyers are generally woefully unprepared to actually represent clients. There is no substitute for real-world experience in all phases of representing clients in legal matters. The most effective lawyers have many years of experience in representing clients in pre-litigation matters, a wide variety of creative settlements, both jury and bench trials at all levels, and both state and federal appeals. Aggressive and effective representation coupled with thinking outside the box requires vast experience in many different situations.
2. Is the Lawyer Too Experienced? Most people think a lawyer can never be too experienced. Remember, a law firm is a business. Like other businesses, positive referrals are critical to building a business. Lawyers at the end of their career may not be as motivated or “hungry” to build their businesses as they approach retirement. As such, the “sweet spot” regarding experience is to identify a lawyer with vast experience who is still in the midst of aggressively building his or her practice.
3. Is the Lawyer Excited About My Case? The best lawyers enjoy what they do and have a genuine passion in their heart for the subject matter rather than merely a desire to earn money. A lawyer who has been personally and actively involved in the general subject matter involved in your case is a good indicator the lawyer is truly interested in your case. Lawyers who often speak publicly or write extensively on the relevant issues are generally more interested in the subject matter and have more passion for the issues involved.
4. Is the Lawyer Going to be Personally Involved in My Case? Hiring the best lawyer on the planet is meaningless if that lawyer simply hands your case off to an inexperienced associate. No lawyer can personally handle every task required during representation. However, meaningful involvement in critical decisions is indispensable to effective representation. Don’t hire a “big name” lawyer only to be represented by an inexperienced lawyer you never met.
5. Does the Lawyer Stay Current on the Law? The law is ever changing. Even the best lawyers can become less effective or even ineffective if they don’t stay current on the law. Good lawyers never rest on their current knowledge base. Rather, they regularly attend both local and national legal seminars to review new cases and discuss emerging strategies with other top lawyers. Your lawyer ought to exceed the required minimum level of continuing legal education hours, and thereby be familiar with the current state of the law.
6. Does the Lawyer Have a Good Reputation? A lawyer’s reputation is critical in many ways. Lawyers quickly develop reputations with their peers, their adversaries, the state bar, and the judges. A good reputation can greatly assist a lawyer in getting things done or resolving a case. A reputation for honesty, aggressive representation, and professionalism is indispensable to expediting a favorable resolution of a case. Lawyers with the best reputations are often called upon by other lawyers for advice and by the press to serve as legal commentators on high profile matters. Lawyers with bad reputations can find it more difficult to get things accomplished for a variety of reasons. Good reputations are earned over the long term by consistently displaying certain positive traits.
7. Is the Lawyer Readily Available? A lawyer who is generally unavailable or hard to reach is a waste of money. Many lawyers are notoriously difficult to reach. Your legal case is critically important to you. Sometimes emergency situations arise which require legal assistance immediately. Lawyers who understand this fact make themselves available 24/7/365 to their clients for such situations. Do not hire a lawyer unless you are confident the lawyer will make you a priority and return all e-mails and telephone calls within 24 hours. An unavailable lawyer is not much better than no lawyer at all.
8. Does the Lawyer Have Good Online Reviews? The internet makes it easy to learn what past clients have to say about a lawyer. Don’t just rely on hand-picked reviews posted on a lawyer’s website. In addition to a general search on the internet, there are many websites which either rate lawyers or post both good and bad comments about a lawyer. Although one or two negative comments may not be reliable, more could be indicative of a serious problem. Good lawyers generally have many good comments posted by past clients.
9. Is the Lawyer a State Bar Certified Specialist? In Arizona, the use of the word “specialist” is highly regulated by the State Bar of Arizona. Lawyers are strictly prohibited from referring to themselves as “specialists” in a given area of law unless the state bar has officially certified the lawyer as a specialist. Such certification requires a comprehensive investigation of the lawyer including confidential peer and adversary reviews, a detailed listing of current experience and dedication to the practice area, heightened ethical standards and additional continuing legal education hours in that practice area.
10. Does the Lawyer Have a Qualified Supporting Team? Effective legal representation often requires a highly skilled and experienced team of investigators, experts, and support staff. Even the best lawyers can be ineffective without proper investigation into the facts or potential theories. Employing the right expert can also mean the difference between success and failure of a legal representation. There are many tasks paralegals accomplish which can also substantially affect the representation. Good lawyers tend to surround themselves with a highly effective and skilled team of varied specialists who each performs potentially critical roles in a legal representation.
10 Things to Think About When Hiring an Attorney