Don't Throw In the Towel before You Enter the Ring!
Listen up: you find yourself with a lawsuit, let's say a foreclosure suit. You look at your bank account, and the money isn't there. You've exhausted every means that comes to mind. You despair. You give up, because you can't see a way out of this; and there goes your home, and your family's happiness as well. Look down at the floor: you just shot a hole in your foot! Too many folks stop fighting, stop trying at this stage, when the range of good options is still immense and available to them. They just don't know it. Nor should they be expected to. That's what experts are for. Lawyers are experts. And some lawyers are experts in beating back foreclosures. And you won't be any the worse for seeking their help, especially if you know what to look for in them. So swallow your pride, and understand that it's not a slur on your honor or on your intelligence to hold out your hand for help. You're in good company. It takes no more than just a little bit of courage.
Look for the Lawyer Who Does This for a Living.
Look for a lawyer who focuses on preventing foreclosures, who can size up the situation, who tells you what you can do, as well as what you can't. A good lawyer won't mince words or string you along with false hopes, or expectations. Our Code of Ethics forbids us to promise or guarantee results; but it doesn't prevent us from "making odds" about whether our game plan will work or won't. That alone is going to be helpful to you, even if it's bad news: at least you'll know that you've exhausted all the possibilities, and you'll never be troubled with the "what ifs" or the nagging "Monday morning quarterbacking" that could drive you crazy.
Look for the Lawyer Who Talks in Everyday English.
A good lawyer will have as good a command of common speech as s/he does legalese. All "legalisms" do is confuse everyone who doesn't use them daily. Dictionaries of legal terms abound, but the definitions found there are couched in everyday language; so legal terms can indeed be committed to everyday speech, and you have an absolute right to understand what the lawyer is talking about. So make sure that s/he speaks to you in a way that you can understand, and don't give up until you understand what s/he's telling you. Chances are, if s/he can't do this, s/he probably doesn't know what s/he's talking about, either. So, tidy up your papers and wish them the best of luck when someday they learn what they're supposed to know, and you bid them good-bye.
Expect a Free First Meeting between You and Your Lawyer.
Why would you be expected to pay someone anything first, without knowing whether s/he can offer you some value by way of answers, explanations, and strategies? Maybe doctors can diagnose an illness in a moment, but it's not likely that lawyers can. What's more, no respectable lawyer would want to take on a case (and take your money) without knowing its dimensions and the problems and challenges it presents. Once s/he gets to the bottom of your predicament, however, be prepared to bring your wallet or your checkbook, since the free advice stops after the initial consultation, and it's disrespectful and perhaps insulting to expect a lawyer to do any more for you without without a show of good faith by paying the retainer requested.
You'll Need All the Time You Can Get.
A good lawyer who loves to do the law will give you all the time you need to talk about your predicament and how things came to this, so you can absorb the best advice your lawyers is capable of giving. There are two dimensions to any problem presented to your lawyer: one is the naked facts and unanswered questions, while the other is the psychological condition you're in when you consult your lawyer. You're going to have to get control of yourself (tears, laments, anger and exasperation are quite permissible, so indulge yourself if you need to vent; but doh't make this a regular thing). Good lawyers will want to give you peace and relief, and they'll do their best to make it happen; but they aren't your psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. Don't expect them to be. On the other hand, if you're controlled and organized, and the lawyer you're meeting with is looking at his watch and not at you or your documents, you're talking to the wrong guy. Move on.
Who Are the Best Lawyers?
The best lawyers come in many sizes and shapes; they're as varied as the problems they've set themselves to solve. So it's impossible to define who they are. On the other hand, we can describe them. Here's some sound, descriptive advice to supplement your intuition and common sense as you look for the "perfect fit."
Good Lawyers Are Long on Facts and Short on "Salesmanship."
Good lawyers dissect your problem first, long before they address the issue of the cost to treat your problem. If a lawyer asserts her fee before she works through the intricacies of your problem, go elsewhere. And for heaven's sake, don't ask what it will cost before you've related everything about your problem: there is no universal answer, and the law isn't "one size fits all." Your lawyer may have heard much of the same before, but each case is different--honestly. Get used to the fact that your case isn't an exact replica of the dozen cases which came before you. Trust me: you don't want to be a mere replica. You need personalized scrutiny and service applied to your problem. You don't want to be the thoiusandth "widget" on an assembly line. There are no prizes to be gotten from high production: at least, no prizes of any value to you.
You Shouldn't Have to Be "Sold" on a Strategy: It Should Ring True All by Itself.
As we've said, good lawyers aren't salesmen, they're lawyers. Persuasion is left for juries and adversaries, not clients. Chances are, if you can't believe it, your lawyer probably doesn't believe it either. Or your lawyer has done a shabby job of explaining it to you. Either way, excuse yourself and exit the premises.
Don't Measure a Lawyer's Value by Evidence of Wealth. Don't Be Taken In by Arrogance or Pomp -- or Furniture.
The lawyer you want shouldn't be judged by the cars they drive, the war stories they tell (which always seem to be their victories: remarkable and a bit suspicious, no?), or the walnut paneling adorning their offices. We've found some of the very best lawyers subsisting closer to the bottom of the food chain, because they're inspired by the worthiness of a case and not the loot it brings them. Good lawyers exude a healthy humility and a prudent pride; they spend nearly all of their time in order to get you solid, dependable answers, not picking swatches of wallpaper to bowl you over with their good taste. So stick to the essence of the problem at hand and not the opulence of the surroundings--and make sure they stick to them, too. After all, not all wealthy lawyers are good lawyers: they're just wealthy; or maybe they're just more in debt for all the frou-frou, fripperies, flounces and filigree than you.
Who's Supposed to Be Interviewing Whom?
While the lawyer interviews you, return the favor. You interview the lawyer. It's your life, your time, and your money; and these considerations should be just as important to the lawyer. Keep the lawyer's feet to the fire until you get sensible solutions (if, that is, there are any to be gotten). If you don't, well, you found your way into the office: now find your way out.
Don't Give Up!
You don't want to find the answer after it's too late to do anything about it, or you'll be beating yourself up with the terrible "ifs," e.g., "If only I had . . ." Now, maybe nothing can be done, but isn't it better to have that assurance than to wander in the fog wondering? Without bringing closure to your problem, the terrible "ifs" will always be there, undercutting your self-confidence, making it harder to face your loved ones, hardest of all to face yourself. Worst of all, the terrible "ifs" will surely contaminate every future life-decision you'll make.
A Good Lawyer Imparts a Kind of Certainty to You.
If something can be done, then it will be done. If nothing can be done, then it's best to know it right from the first. If it's ending is unhappy, then all your energies can be focused on picking yourself up and starting anew, rather than being diverted to chasing "pie-in-the-sky" panaceas. You can get on with your life--everybody eventually does--secure in knowing that with your lawyer's help and advice you've done absolutely everything that could ever be expected of you. There's a strange but very real and persuasive comfort in that. Forget about having done something sooner: neither you nor anyone else not a lawyer would have done things differently than you did them.
Don't "Shave," Don't "Spin" the Truth !
Do your very best to tell your lawyer everything, even if it hurts like the dickens to say it. As with computers, if garbage goes in, then garbage comes out. Without accuracy, candor, objectivity, and completeness, your results are going to be . . . garbage. Your lawyer wants to trust you, because your lawyer needs to trust you. You must--you absolutely must--bridge the gap as soon as you can with evidence of good faith and truthfulness. A good lawyer will burn the midnight oil and lose a lot of sleep just to bring you relief, if the lawyer believes in you. If she doesn't, she'll be well-rested when the next day she shows you the door. And don't expect a refund. A good lawyer suffers as much as anyone by betrayal, you're not the only one.
How Do You Know When You've Found the Right Lawyer?
We've said that we can't "define" a good lawyer. We've done a pretty good job of "describing" a good lawyer, though. And none of our descriptions should come as any surprise to you, as though you had to learn a new language from scratch. For one thing is absolutely certain: you'll know a good lawyer when you see one. You'll recognize who they are and what they are when you hear what they have to say and how they say it. Don't expect a supernatural apparition, and don't hold out for a parting of the waters. Just trust your best instincts. And if your best instincts are prompting you to move away, then keep looking--because they're out there, and there are quite a few of them for you to find.
The Whole Truth about Lawyers and Good Lawyering.
Lawyers don't do magic. Lawyering is excruciatingly hard work. Lawyering is hard work which, if properly performed, takes a long time to accomplish. Lawyering is made all the harder because, unlike medicine where the body doesn't lie, with lawyering we're dealing with people's minds and their capacity for intrigue, for contrivance and conspiracy, for misdirection and misrepresentation, and for naked mendacity (lying, in other words). You may be the victim of this reprehensible behavior, but while it's one thing to know it to be true in your heart, it's quite another thing to bring this behavior before a tribunal and make it stand out as black does from white. Surgery is very expensive, but all of us tend to see it as somehow miraculous that a doctor can work on a human body Litigation is even more expensive, but we leave the courtroom disenchanted with the result to some degree, even if we win. That's human nature; that's the human condition. But that's why we need good lawyers
The Privilege Belongs to You
If you've already thrown in the towel, if you've deluded yourself into believing that you somehow deserve what's happening to you, you've wasted your time reading this. So just lay down and let the world roll right over you and flatten you out. But if you refuse to be flattened like so much asphalt on a potted road, then you're going to make a call and find that good lawyer. You'll make as many calls as you have to, until you find that good lawyer whom you can trust, and who will come to trust you. And when you do, you'll know two things: it isn't over until it's over: and it ain't over yet; and good lawyers never give up. That's the unvarnished, undiluted, unqualified truth. And so it's time to get the steam up, to explore, to investigate and to decide. Right now, you own that privilege. So exercise it. Do it now.