Finding the right attorney for you can be a daunting experience. It is likely that the reason you are looking for legal representation is because you are experiencing or entering unchartered areas of your life in which you need the assistance, support, and expertise of an individual trained to navigate and assess various legal ramifications along the way.
Invariably an attorney’s track record and reputation speaks to their ability to perform for you in the future. We all have learned that past performance is a likely indicator of future performance. However, there are intrinsic traits to look for when meeting or consulting with counsel for the first time and they include the following:
- Ethics Lawyers are public servants and guardians of the law. Their daily work, no matter how complex or small, plays a vital role in the preservation of society. A primary duty of your lawyer is to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct. Obedience to the law demonstrates respect for the law. A good lawyer will manifest respect for the law much higher than mere platitude.The most value-added service your lawyer can provide you is simply being ethical and taking his or her professional fiduciary duty seriously. Your attorney will have several duties to you once an attorney-client privilege is formed including but not limited to: a duty of care, a duty of confidentiality, and a duty of competency.
- Communication Skills and Approachability Good lawyering takes good “people skills.” A good lawyer will help you recognize legal problems; for many people legal issues may not be self-revealing or be untimely noticed. You must be comfortable approaching your counsel and communicating with him or her on a frequent basis. If you are not sure whether or not something has surfaced in your life that touches or concerns your legal rights or liabilities, you need to feel comfortable picking up the phone and running it by your lawyer.Communication is key to the attorney-client relationship. Both parties must be able to communicate openly and easily. Lawyers are most efficient when they completely understand their client’s wants and needs. You should never feel rushed, foolish, boring, or silly when explaining your issues to your attorney. Remember, if you are confused or frustrated with the communication style of the lawyer this might likely be felt by other individuals as well, even those to whom the lawyer must negotiate or advocate with on your behalf.
- Logic A good lawyer will not only be knowledgeable of the relevant principles of law, but will also have a pragmatic approach in the application of the law toward the problem at hand. Just because you may have a valid legal claim, a legal action may not always serve your best interest. The ability to weigh through a cost-benefit analysis and apply the law to the matter will allow the client to better understand if they should pursue legal relief in certain situations or not.Let’s face it, there is more to life than simply being legally right. Legal undertakings can involve emotional, economic, and psychological resources that will need to be considered, all having various ramifications in the client’s life. For example, a client may have a high probability of winning their case in court, but the legal cost of pursing the lawsuit will essentially cost more than the amount in which the client was damaged. Ultimately it is not the lawyer’s job to counsel you through all of these facets of life, but a good attorney will be able to make their client aware of other issues and look at the problem holistically. A logical lawyer will be able to provide their client with the “big picture” aside from the legal landscape.
- Value A client may often wonder if they simply could have undertaken such work without the advice or legal support of their attorney. Legal services, like anything else, are an investment of your hard earned resources. It can be difficult to assess the true value of certain legal services. This is especially true when the attorney is providing an intangible service such as legal advice or transactional support.The fact of the matter is that legal input on many matters in your life can actually help a person avoid the need to pursue a costly lawsuit or head to lengthy trial. Up front planning would essentially have protected them from such disasters from the onset. Benjamin Franklin provided these elegant words that ring true with obtaining appropriate legal services, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Paying the money and putting in the time up front to obtain proper legal services is a wonderful investment in yourself and your resources.
- Team Player An attorney who puts their clients needs first is a team player. A good lawyer will know when they need to obtain help or support from others. A lawyer must possess reasonable knowledge and skills but must know his limits. No one attorney can know everything and resolve every legal matter. A good lawyer knows when they need to reach out to third parties for assistance or to advise their clients to do so. This may result in contracting out to third parties for investigation, research, specialized and/or technical knowledge or even elevated legal advice.