Finding an attorney adds stress to an already stressful situation. So, when you realize you need an attorney how can you be sure that you find the right one?
1. Does the attorney have a reputation for being able to handle your kind of matter?
The single greatest factor in most people’s search for an attorney is personal recommendations. Ask your friends, family, neighbors, pastor, or other service providers who they recommend. Then ask them why they recommend that attorney. Is it because they got the job done quickly? Did the attorney keep them informed? What exactly was it that made them recommend that attorney to you.
After looking for personal recommendations, search out the attorney on the internet and on social media. What are other people saying about the attorney? Do they advertise the kind of work you need? Have they written articles on the work you need?
Using a combination of personal recommendations and online reviews can help lead you to an attorney that may fit your needs.
2. Does the attorney listen to your situation before recommending a solution?
Once you are found an attorney you need to meet with them. This is usually in person, but it can also be done over the phone or via video chat.
When you are meeting with the attorney the first time, who is doing most of the talking? That first meeting should start with you doing most of the talking and the attorney asking questions.
Every situation is unique, and if the attorney doesn’t take time to understand your situation then they likely won’t take time to meet your specific needs. Attorneys can fall prey to the mentality that they have a cookie-cutter solution to your problem. And while that might work in some, or most, situations, if an attorney doesn’t take the time to listen to you they may miss out on how your situation is unique.
3. Does the attorney take time to educate you about the legal process?
The legal profession is a very, very, old profession and it full of words and concepts that don’t make sense unless you are trained in it. Attorneys learn how to use these words as a kind of shorthand to encompass large concepts into a short amount of words. It can be impressive, intimidating, and confusing. Sometimes attorneys forget that you, the client, didn’t go to law school and you don’t have the slightest clue what we are talking about. Making sure you understand what the attorney is talking about and that the attorney is taking time to educate you about the process is key to knowing you have found an attorney you can work with.
4. Is the attorney transparent about the time, fees, and expenses associated with your matter?
Legal matters are complex and nuanced, and because of that the amount of time, fees, and expenses needed for your matter may be difficult to estimate. That being true, you should still feel like you know how long your matter is going to take and have a good grip on the rates you will be charged.
Some matters can be done on a flat fee basis, and you will know that it won’t cost any more than what you are quoted. Some matters can be done on a base plus basis, and you know that if everything goes smoothly it will be the base fee, but if there are problems you will know the hourly rate you will be charged.
Other matters are billable on the attorney’s hourly rate, and you should know what that rate is and what fraction of an hour you will be billed for.
Remember, even with the best estimates and quotes there are unforeseen issues that can come up. It is a good rule of thumb in acquiring legal services to hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.
5. Is your interaction with the attorney empowering?
To feel empowered is to feel like you have the power to do something—to feel stronger and more confident. When you meet with the attorney do you feel that you moved from uncertainty to empowered?
Another pitfall that attorneys can fall into is the Wizard of Oz trap, “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” Where the attorney takes your matter and starts working on it and you have no idea what is going on. A good attorney will bring you in on the process and empower you to feel like you are part of what is going on.
If you are looking for an attorney for a need now, or to have available when you may have a need later, check out what people are saying about us.
Our team is always looking for ways to provide Honest, Empowering, Innovative, and Respectful legal services to our communities and region.
Christopher M. White