In the world of today, it seems as if we are constantly bombarded with ads and information about the best product or service to choose – and lawyers are no exception. Ads for lawyers are everywhere – from online banners to billboards to subway posters. Yet most (if not all) of these ads share a common theme, which is encapsulated by the slogan, “We’ll fight for your rights” or a similar variation of that phrase.
Interestingly enough, when you break down that phrase, all it means is that, “We will do our job”. That’s it. The sole purpose of lawyers is to fight for their clients’ rights and make sure that their clients’ interests are best served. So it’s important to never get caught up in typical ‘lawyer-ad lingo’.
When choosing the right lawyer, it is important to meet with more than just one. Go ahead and shop around – as there are many lawyers out there, and you should never feel as if you are settling for the first one you meet. Remember, you are interviewing these lawyers, and the more you interview, the better feel you’ll get for choosing someone who can assist you the best.
Three Critical Principles to Look For
When conducting your interview, there are three critical principles that you absolutely must look out for in order to determine if there will be a successful relationship in which you can be satisfied with your legal counsel. These three principles are honesty, dependability, and openness. Though these principles may be interrelated, they should be viewed separately in order to help in your selection process.
This precept is arguably the most self-explanatory and most important component of the lawyer-client relationship. You need to feel that you can trust your lawyer. This means that when you present your legal needs to the lawyer, the lawyer won’t simply say, “Sure I can help” and then request a retainer. An honest relationship should always begin with the lawyer assessing your situation,and outlining – on a very high level and based on the facts you present – what needs to happen to best serve you. Should the facts be complex and the lawyer need to review and think about how to help you best, that is completely fine. In fact, it could mean that the lawyer is careful and diligent and wants to provide you with an honest opinion of how to help. Just remember to never confuse sharp wit for honesty.
Simply put, you need to rely on your lawyer. By definition, a lawyer is often your agent and acts on your behalf, and in your best interest. You must be able to rely on your legal counsel. This is more than just finding a lawyer who is available 24/7 to answer all your concerns immediately. It’s about having peace of mind and knowing that your lawyer is staying on top of your situation.
This is difficult to determine from the outset, but a helpful ‘rule of thumb’ in an initial meeting is hearing the lawyer offer you a general timeline of the process without being prompted to do so. Presenting you with a timeline – even if said in passing – gives you a sense that the lawyer understands the time sensitivity of your legal needs. Naturally, this helpful tool to determine a lawyer’s dependability at the first meeting is exactly that – a helpful tool. It is not foolproof, and the only way to determine fully if your lawyer is dependable will take time. Read reviews about the lawyer, see if there are any complaints or investigations open against the lawyer. The more due diligence you do yourself, the better.
Arguably one of the biggest issues individuals have with their lawyers is communication. Either the lawyers did not communicate everything to their clients, or they did so in a way that the client didn’t clearly and plainly understand what was communicated. In order to avoid this problem from ever arising, the key is to see whether the lawyer talks openly and candidly with you at your meeting, without you ever asking for clarification or saying, “I don’t understand you.”
Legalese (the formal language in documents that is often hard to understand) should not be used to communicate with you. You should have the ability to carry on a casual, easy conversation with a lawyer, without getting caught up in any complex language. Lawyers often perceive their ability to have a conversation using complex words as a positive. But the complex language needs to be kept for communication between lawyers and on legal documents. The lawyer-client communication needs to be simple to understand and somewhat casual, and it is the lawyer’s obligation to make sure that at the end of the conversation, you understand exactly what is said. That obligation rests on the lawyer and not on you.
These are just some of the useful tools in finding the right lawyer. Keep in mind that these are just suggestions, and finding the right lawyer is much more of an art than a science. Just remember that options exist for you, and you should never settle until you find one that suits your needs. Lawyers exist to serve you – not the other way around.
For more information, please contact us at 647.499.4307.