Choosing the right attorney is a hard one, especially if you’re in the middle of a complicated legal battle. Though there are a lot of good lawyers out there, it’s also undeniable that there are a few rotten apples in the profession. Hence, a common question for everyone facing a legal issue is: how do I know if my lawyer is good?
There is no cut-and-dry standard for what makes a good lawyer. Though the American Bar Association (ABA) has published a Code of Ethics for lawyers in the US. Still, it’s not really enough to gauge a lawyer’s capability. With so many attorneys out there (over 350,000 in the US alone), weeding out the bad ones can be a tough task.
No worries. In this post, we’ll guide you on how to spot a good lawyer so you won’t fall prey to the ones who are only after your money.
Tell-tale Signs That You Have a Good Lawyer
If you want to hire a good lawyer, here are tell-tale signs to watch out for:
1. Does Not Make Guarantees
It doesn’t hurt to keep a positive attitude but a good lawyer doesn’t make guarantees. Instead, they will give you an idea of what to expect about your case. They should tell you from the get-go how likely you are to win. Lawyers who are worth their salt know that there are no guarantees when it comes to legal disputes. So if your lawyer promises that you’ll win the case, they’re more likely just after your money.
2. Respects Your Time
It’s a commonly known fact that lawyers are very busy people. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for them to not answer your calls or put your case on the back burner. A good lawyer knows how to respect your time. They might not be able to reply instantly but they should respond in a timely manner. If they are too busy to handle another client, then they should have told you that from the start rather than waste your time. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re facing simple issues like traffic tickets or more severe ones like medical malpractice. A client is a client. So if you’re having a hard time getting in touch with your lawyer, then it’s time to look for a better one.
3. Great Listener
A good lawyer should also be a great listener. It’s your case after all and whatever the outcome might be, it will have more impact on you. They should be able to understand your goals and take suggestions from you.
You can usually tell if your lawyer is a great listener if they put effort into talking to you personally. If you only get to meet with their secretaries, then that’s not a very promising sign. Even if they have a lot on their plate, your lawyer should make time to meet with you and discuss your case.
4. Clear About Fees Upfront
Law schools don’t come cheap, that’s why attorney fees tend to be on the pricier side too. So you should be cautious if a lawyer says they have the cheapest fees.
If your attorney offers you rock-bottom prices, you’ll most likely have to pay a hidden fee down the road. If there are no hidden costs and they still have bargain prices, then you should be more worried. It just means they don’t have a lot of clients because their reputation isn’t that great.
Many people think that a good lawyer should be sympathetic towards them. But this isn’t actually true. A good lawyer should maintain an objective view of the case and a professional relationship with their clients. If they become too emotionally involved in your case, it may cloud their judgment. It’s important for them to remain impartial so they can more effectively seek out the truth and craft a better strategy for your case.
6. Does Not Disclose Information About Other Clients
As mentioned, the American Bar Association has published a code of conduct for legal professionals. Under it, lawyers should keep client information confidential. So if your lawyer tells you (even in passing) personal information about another client, then that’s a red flag. Except, however, if it’s just general information to prove their competence. If they disclose their other client’s information, then there’s a good chance they’ll do the same to you too.
7. Answers Your Questions
As someone who doesn’t know much about the law, it’s perfectly normal for you to have questions from time to time. And you should be able to get answers from your lawyer. I mean, who else would you turn to for legal advice other than them? If your lawyer constantly dodges your questions or gives you vague answers, then they’re not really worth your hard-earned money.
Questions to Ask Your Lawyer
Most of the time, you can’t really tell if your lawyer is good until you worked with them. But by that time, it might be too late to terminate the engagement. That’s why before hiring a lawyer, you need to get to know them first.
Some of the most important questions you need to ask your lawyer during the initial consultation are:
1. What are your areas of practice?
The legal field is very broad and lawyers usually have an area of expertise. There are disability lawyers, corporate lawyers, personal injury lawyers, etcetera. If you hire a lawyer, you should make sure that your case falls within their area of expertise.
2. How long have you been practicing law?’
Your lawyer’s experience will be a huge factor in the outcome of your case.
3. Are most of your clients individual or businesses?
If your attorney is well-versed in representing corporations, then they might not be as effective when handling individual cases.
4. Have you represented a case similar to mine?
This is a very important question if you’re considering hiring a lawyer. If they already had experience representing a case similar to yours, that would work to your advantage.
5. How much should I expect to pay?
As mentioned, a good lawyer should be upfront about their billing fees and process.
6. How will you update me on the progress of my case?
When working with a lawyer, communication is key. They should keep you in the loop about important legal updates and any other legal information you should be aware of.
7. Will I win my case?
If your lawyer answers “yes” to this and guarantees a sure win, then get out of there and never return again.
8. Is there any other legal alternative to my case?
Legal battles tend to be lengthy and expensive. That’s why if the lawyer really cares about you, they’ll advise you of better ways to resolve your case like arbitration and out-of-court settlements.
How to Find Out Grievances Against Your Lawyer (If Any)
One of the best but often overlooked ways of finding out if your lawyer is good is to see if there were any grievances against them.
Most attorneys have digital footprints. So if you Google them, there’s a good chance you’ll see reviews about them.
Some states like California also have an online record of grievances filed against lawyers. In Florida, however, any complaints filed against a lawyer are deemed confidential. So it would be hard to find out if a lawyer how many people have filed complaints against a certain lawyer.
But, hey, it’s the age of social media. One post and you’ll most likely have a couple of people who are more than willing to share their experience. It all depends on how great your “‘research skills” are.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Judy Ponio is a writer for Victor Malca Law P.A. and enjoys helping people with questions about social security, workers compensation, and other serious matters involving people’s livelihood. She is not an attorney and her writing should not be considered legal advice.