Most of the time, when you need an attorney, it’s not an easy time in your life. Likely, you’ve experienced something very traumatic with your family or your job and you are vulnerable. This can lead to rash decisions. You don’t know a lawyer because you’ve never needed one before, so, you head to the internet and start Googling. But with all of the attorneys you’ll find on the information superhighway, how do you know which one is right for you?
There is no easy answer and not all attorneys are created equal. To start, let’s take fees out of the equation as they are negotiable by law and there are far more critical things to consider. For instance, the lawyer who was a great fit for your friend when she negotiated a severance last year, may not be a great fit for you having just been fired from your job. Finding a lawyer who is right for your case will probably be the simplest part of your search. It only requires finding a lawyer who practices in the appropriate field. Finding a lawyer who is right for you is a little more involved. When assessing whether to hire a particular attorney, you should consider compatibility above all else.
Compatibility can be divided into the following four essential qualities:
This may seem like a no brainer to you but honesty is a double-edged sword. Everyone expects that their lawyer will tell them the truth when it comes to the details of their case and so should they. However, sometimes the truth can be difficult to swallow. In every case, there is a point when the lawyer has to tell the client something about her case that she doesn’t want to hear. This is precisely the reason why you have to be able to trust your lawyer, not only will she tell you the things that you want to know, she’ll tell you the things you probably don’t want to know, that can dramatically alter the outcome of your case and affect your ultimate decisions.
When you speak to a lawyer during your initial consultation, it is common to get caught up in the details of the particular issue. The lawyer will often approach you from an analytical perspective, occasionally seeming to forget that you are an actual person who suffered an actual trauma. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your potential lawyer doesn’t feel compassion for you but it could. When meeting with lawyers, try to assess whether she can put herself in your shoes. At the end of the day, your lawyer is going to do a lot of talking on your behalf and it will be much more persuasive if she can appreciate your experience.
Hiring a lawyer does not end your participation in your case. You will be an integral part of the decision making process all along the way. Although sometimes months can pass without any updates to your case, you need to be able to reach your lawyer with ease and should expect regular communication. While you should expect that your lawyer will have other clients and will be sharing her time among all of them, an accessible lawyer will have multiple lines of communication open so you can contact her when necessary. Additionally, an accessible lawyer will give you continuous access to your case via an online client portal. Find out if your lawyer can be reached by email in addition to telephone and be sure to discuss reasonable time expectations for how often you will be updated as well as when you will receive responses to your questions.
People looking for a lawyer can be too quick to hire the first affordable attorney willing to take on their case. This is a big mistake. Your lawyer should have a vested interest in your case and be ready to fight the good fight with you. If you find that the lawyer doesn’t wholeheartedly believe in your case, don’t hire her, she is not the lawyer for you. If the lawyer can’t get behind your case 100% from the beginning, it probably won’t get any better as unfavorable facts are unearthed.
Hiring an attorney is like finding a spouse. You will be in very close quarters with your attorney for at least a year of two. If you don’t find a perfect fit on the first try, there are other lawyers in the sea, keep looking.