How to Pick a Lawyer - Three Easy Steps:
For years clients have come to me without a clue what to look for when choosing the right lawyer for them. Mostly because they have never had to deal with the legal system and all they know is what they see on television. Reality is different and I always suggest some specific and concrete things to look for. Here is what I advise.
Look for three things, in order. If the first is not present you do not have to go on to the second and so on through all three.
First, you must be able to communicate with the lawyer: Now that does not only mean you must be able to talk to him or his staff, though that is part of it. It means that you must feel when you communicate with the lawyer or his staff he/they understand what you are saying and the same in reverse. When he explains something he does it patiently until you understand, and you do not leave his office wondering, “What did he say?”
Second, and very important, you must trust him: How do you determine that? Well, you remember how many times you have met someone and an alarm goes off in your gut. You don’t listen to it and later when something goes wrong you tell yourself, “ I had a funny feeling in my gut.” That’s the feeling you need to heed. It manifests in the first five minutes after you start the meeting. Then its overridden by your mind, the conversation, the pretty office etc. Listen to that feeling. If some bell goes off, find another lawyer. Why is that important? Because, especially in family cases, due to their length and the drastic emotional and mood swings it brings, you will start doubting your lawyer, his competence, the system, even feeling your lawyer must be working for the other side. These are all natural reactions to the frustrations of the system. At these times you need to be able to hang on to something. That something is the trust you have that your lawyer is working for you and doing the best for you. When that time comes, I usually remind my client of that feeling and it has a calming effect. So if your gut goes off, listen to it. It will save you immense pain in the future.
Lastly, and this is something less easy to quantify. The lawyer must be able to do the job. Be real, most lawyers will not tell you, “Sorry, I don’t know how to do that” or, “ I am not experienced enough for the task”. Its not in our nature. We always figure that we can learn or muddle through. That’s not good enough for you. So here are a few truisms. Things to look for.
1. A lawyer is only as good as his help: Lawyers cannot do it all alone. If the lawyer does not have good paralegal, secretaries, assistants or whatever they like to be called, he can’t do you a good job. So talk to the person that will be supporting him and apply No.1 & 2 above to that person.
2. An busy unorganized lawyer will have more trouble handling your case than an organized lawyer: Many times clients have come in and told me that the last lawyer they talked to had files scattered in stacks on his couch, or on the floor. Or he and/or his secretary had their desk or credenza piled high with different files. Just know that if you hire that person your file will be among and added to the stack. Just like a good chef works clean so should a lawyer and his staff.
For more tips click on the section entitled "Additional Items To Look For When Selecting a Lawyer" immediately below this article....
In conclusion, hiring a lawyer is one of the most important decisions in your life. Especially if it pertains to your freedom (criminal cases) or a family matter ( divorce custody, child support CPS). You should take as much care in finding the right person for you, as you do in the most important of your business affairs. Take your time and do it right. Listening and looking for these markers can help you make the right decision.
Additional Items to Look for When Selecting an Lawyer:
While the list can go on and on, I think these are additional things that are easily noticeable in a first visit and should be considered.
1. The office should have some organization in their filing and traffic flow system. It should be something other than just a label with your name on it. In my office, as an example, we color code the files by type of case. Faxes are printed out on yellow paper and notes from conversations with the client on purple making them easier to find in a file. Each file has a corresponding 5x8 card that gets filed in a box by date for when the file needs to be seen again, making it impossible, well almost, to lose a file. That manual method is in addition to keeping track of the file by computer. These are just examples of things to look for. Every lawyer will have a different system. You should ask and the lawyer should be able to tell you his. If the lawyers says he cant describe the organizational or traffic flow system but ask the office manager or secretary, what does that say about his knowledge of how his office runs.
2. A busy lawyer is most often a good lawyer: Most good lawyers will not be sitting around waiting for clients. When you meet him with an approaching court date close just days away and the lawyer tells you he has plenty of time, you should see a flag. While it is true we all have breaks in our schedule that your case may just fill, most of the time the lawyers calendar is full at least two weeks out if not more.
3. Good lawyers will have good references: Can he suggest or describe other cases like yours he has handled. And to what result. Were you referred to the lawyer by a person he has done work for before. What did they say about his strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be fooled by a big firm, fancy offices, or expensive clothes. Those are trappings. You are hiring him for his knowledge and brains. And even more important, his experience and knowledge of the system. How long has the lawyer been doing the type of work you are asking him to do. Does he know the Judges and how they respond to certain facts. Can he, only after knowing all the facts, give you a realistic prognosis.
Hopefully these will give you some place to start in evaluating the lawyer you are considering, myself included.
To schedule your free consultation to speak with Irving, Texas attorney George White, please contact us by phone or send us a message.