(DGIwire) It isn’t always easy finding the right lawyer for a person’s needs. If all one needs is a simple power of attorney while away on vacation, it isn’t necessary to hire a lawyer that charges $500 per hour. On the other hand, if there are substantial assets and a complicated set of business holdings, a person ought to care very much if they are hiring a lawyer with the knowledge and experience to accomplish an airtight family trust. The key is in hiring the right lawyer for the task at hand, and that means either getting a referral from a lawyer that is known and trusted or knowing how to interview ones that are not personally known to the potential client.
Interviewing a lawyer takes some advance preparation. According to Janet Sobel, author of Litigation – Insult to Injury: What Judges and Lawyers Know About the Legal System That You Don’t and longtime California attorney, people should give focused attention to their efforts to find and hire the right attorney. Mistakes in hiring the wrong lawyer can be ten times worse than whatever problem brought the person to hire the lawyer in the first place. Sobel explains that, “even award-winning, highly respected lawyers can make a mess of things, as is proven by cases that fill law libraries.” Before a person sets out to find a lawyer for an important legal matter, groundwork needs to be done. For one thing, Sobel says, “the person needs to understand what kind of legal help they need.” Only by understanding the nature of the legal assignment can the consumer ask lawyers to explain how they might go about handling the client’s case.
Besides needing to know what the lawyer will charge for his time, clients need to have an idea of the attorney’s philosophy towards dealing with the client. Lawyers in every state owe duties of care and loyalty to their clients, including to:
- Keep the client informed about what is happening in the case. After all, it is the client’s case, and the client’s life, and the client is the Master of the attorney-client relationship.
- Answer the client’s questions regarding things the lawyer is doing or not doing. Lawyers are not permitted to get huffy or defensive when questioned by the client. Every lawyer’s Emotional Intelligence Quotient is as important as their IQ.
- Return the client’s phone calls and provide copies of documents in the case. The only way the client can know what is happening, or ask questions about the case, is to see the paperwork (including emails) that is being generated.
- Provide periodic billing statements so the client can question the charges and catch errors before they get out of control.
- Act as an “advisor,” giving sensible advice and an explanation of options. Clients are entitled to weigh all options, and the lawyer is the one to provide them.
If there is a problem that might lead to a court battle, clients should ask each lawyer they interview to explain how they will approach the resolution of the dispute. Some lawyers are simply better than others at promoting compromises through strategies such as mediation. Other lawyers take their clients for a wild ride, running up fees beyond what is necessary. Importantly, says Sobel, people should only hire lawyers after interviewing more than one and should select one they feel comfortable with. Hiring a lawyer can be as important as picking a companion. Finally, clients might consider hiring a lawyer for the express purpose of helping the client to find and hire the specialist. Sometimes that is the only way to do it right, because lawyers know what to look for, what questions to ask, and how to assess what they hear.