Picking the Best Attorney — Picking Just the "Right" Lawyer
I have been asked by friends and family: “how do you pick a trial lawyer?”
I even have those calls about my friend needing a lawyer and wanting the “meanest, nastiest lawyer you know”.
So, how do you pick a lawyer or law firm?
Should you base it on a law firm’s commercials? Do you base it on how much the lawyer says they can get you? Do you base it on a firm’s website or their print materials? Do you ask around to friends and people you trust?
A law firm may advertise on television, but let’s be honest, that is largely to keep their name in your mind or in the mind of the public as a whole. If the law firm “promises” something in the ad, ask yourself if it is really something they can promise.
What was the case about?
These are all meaningless and statements of utter nonsense without the really important information:
- What were Bill’s injuries?
- How much were Bill’s medical bills and lost wages?
- How long did it take to settle Bill’s case?
- Would it have been smarter and more beneficial to Bill if he had gone to trial and had an experienced trial lawyer in the courtroom?
After over 35 years working for insurance companies and lawyers, I can tell you with absolute certainty that settling someone’s case for $361,000 when it is actually worth $750,000, for example, is easy. Any neophyte can settle a case for a fraction of its value and insurance companies love dealing with law firms and lawyers who settle their clients’ cases for only a fraction of the real value.
It requires attorneys with special skills and loyalty to clients to recommend cases not be settled for dimes on the dollar. It requires lawyers skilled in the courtroom with real trial experience to recommend a client take their case to a jury to receive fair compensation for their loss or injury.
When you need a competent attorney who will look out for your best interests first, you should have the following information to consider:
Education. Where did the attorney go to school and where is that school rated in terms of other law schools. What grades did the attorney receive? Where the lawyer received their degree is an important piece of information, but much like any other professionals; I have known unqualified lawyers who went to Harvard and highly competent lawyers who went Youngstown State Law School.
What types of law have you practiced? Hiring a lawyer to handle a matter that may go to trial when she has been doing real estate closing for the past 10 years is probably not the best selection. Ask what other firms they have practiced with and what made them come here to their present firm.
Are you “board certified”? Have you received any awards for superior practice? Are you included in “Best Lawyers”?
How much experience have they had with a case like yours? Experienced lawyers can usually rattle off several similar cases. They can also, usually, provide descriptions detailed enough while avoiding disclosing client confidences.
Who works with them? Do they have a secretary dedicated only to them? Do they have a paralegal? Do they have research attorneys? What other resources do they have at their disposal for which they will not charge you an additional cost?
How much in settlement or verdict did you get for your clients in those cases. Sometimes cases are settled with confidential settlements and in those cases the attorney may not discuss amounts; but qualified attorneys typically have plenty of case examples.
Who, besides the attorney, can you speak to about your case?
How long will my case take to conclude? The majority of cases are settled for amounts fair to all concerned, but some cases have to be taken to trial. Some defendants are not reasonable. Most experienced attorneys will give you a range of months to years.
What is your fee? Find a competent firm willing to handle your personal injury case on a “contingent fee” basis and who will pay the costs in the case until you make a recovery. Find one that will agree, in writing, to charge you a fee and costs only if you make a recovery.
Ask anything else you think will help you feel the attorney is competent and can help you with your case. Check out the firm’s website and see if they and the attorney seem to have the experience they claim.
Then…make your best judgment; but never stop asking questions.