Six Costly Misconceptions When Choosing a Lawyer and Seven Questions You Should Ask!
I've learned that choosing a lawyer is the subject of much confusion. In fact, people have so many misconceptions about choosing a lawyer that I decided to offer this consumer education message. So when you select a lawyer, you can no make an informed intelligent decision.
Misconceptions #1: "Wait until sued before seeking legal representation."No. Waiting to be sued might be too late. Can you picture seeing termites in your home? Do you wait before you call the exterminator? Certainly not because addressing the problem right away can possibly save you much money, anxiety and time. Virtually all causes of action in law runs on statutes of limitations. Which simply mean "the deadline for filing a suit" When you delay or just react, you're jeopardizing valuable time as well as an opportunity for a competent attorney to advise and to work on your behalf. The longer you wait to seek legal help, the more damage you can do to your case.
Misconception #2 "The only reason you need a lawyer is because you're responsible or guilty!"No. As you probably know nothing can be further from the truth. Many of people have lost fortunes or their liberty because of this lie. The laws are meant to protect you, but unfortunately too many people have been subject to frivolous claims or outright lies. Doing nothing or hoping you can just speak with the people can often time result in making statements that can come back and haunt you in a law suit. Choose the best lawyer and let him do the work. That's his job. Abraham Lincoln said it best. "A person that represents himself has a fool for a client" Don't be too hard on yourself though. We all want to stand up for what is right, but when you facing professionals, it's time to go get one of your own.
Misconception #3 "One lawyer is as good as another!"No. By now you understand that this misconception is way off the mark. But let's talk about it because it still exists today. Law is a very specialized profession. There are many fields of law, and some attorneys practice exclusively in one or more areas. Those attorneys are considered "specialist". Be careful of the phrase "specialist" because it is often overused and abused as well. Missouri only recognize certain areas of law that are considered "specialist" areas. For example, Admiralty, patent, and taxes are recognized as specialty areas of law
First, not all lawyers are trial lawyers. Many lawyers use the phrase "litigation" but many lawyers never see the inside of courtroom, or present evidence to a jury. If litigation experience is what you're seeking make sure it's actual trial experience, and not merely paper shuffling.
Second, just because a lawyer advertises doesn't give him any more experience or competence than someone who does not. Be careful of the "you know me because you seen me on T.V." attorney. Experience is something similar to respect. You have to earn it.
Third, don't buy all the Hype! If a lawyer is good, you will know it by engaging in a discussion with him. If the lawyer is too busy sounding his own horn and not listening to yours, graciously thank him and get out fast. A lawyer must be willing to listen to his client's problem. Fast cures or prior cases don't work all the time. Sure, experience is helpful, but only to the extent it advances the client's case. So if your lawyer is too busy to recognize the dignity of you sitting there, don't pay him to do it. Before meeting the attorney ask whether there are any initial fees to sit and talk. Try to avoid the ones that charge a fee. However, if a fee is necessary, make sure it is nominal. Time isn't free but the willingness and opportunity to establish a relationship with a client is invaluable.
Misconception #4 "The lawyers belong to a big firm and therefore must be good!"Not true. Many large firms are mills. Simply because someone works at a firm, that has ten lawyers in it's' name doesn't mean that lawyer assigned to matter is competent or the right fit for you. Sure there's a comfort in spending more per hour, but that luxury becomes short lived after you exhausted thousand of dollars. Many of the large firms hire directly out of law school and the chance of getting someone assigned to your case rather inexperienced is considerable. Oh I forgot, to avoid the inexperience argument, these large firms assign two attorneys to your matter. You pay for both. Most prospective clients wouldn't go for this if they knew all the facts, -- but a large number of clients don't. The bottom line is you deserve the best possible time and attention. Anything less is not acceptable.
Misconception #5 "The lawyer that gives me the best price is the one you should hire!"Maybe -- but not always. Here are two important points to consider.
Point #1: The price you see offered may not be for all the services you want and "need" performed. Before you select a lawyer, decide what you want to accomplish. If you want the lawyer to just patch the problem, you can choose from hundreds of lawyers that will work on a "piecemeal" basis. That is, the lawyer is just to do a limited thing and nothing more.
On the other hand, if you want your resources and liberties fully protected then you need to hire a lawyer that fully understands your matter and is willing to fully engage himself. You will need a lawyer willing, eager and demanding of communication with you. This is the only way to assure that your relationship remains healthy, and conducive to achieving the desired results. So remember that the price you see offered may not be for the all the services you want performed.
Point #2: The initial price you see advertised or presented may not be the price you pay. Many clients have learned that the low price they saw advertised was not the amount they were charged. And if you've ever hired a lawyer who posts his prices in an advertisement, you too may have been the victim of false or
misleading advertising. You probably learned the hard way that some lawyers offer a cheap price but the end price is much more than you anticipated or even discussed. As in all businesses and professions, the legal industry has its share of bad apples. I take no pleasure in telling you this, but some are unethical -- and, sadly, a few are dishonest. I believe by not disclosing to the client the range of possible fees and making false promises through cheap advertisements cast a dark shadow on our entire profession. Then you'll find other lawyers -- professionals like me who work hard to earn your trust and respect. As a way of improving our profession, I've dedicated my business to educating the public. The only way you can make an intelligent decision is to have all the facts you need. This is why I've created this "Guide" for choosing a lawyer.
Minconception #6 "Any honest lawyer should give you an exact price quote over the telephone!"I wish this were true, but it isn't Clients often think that a lawyer should be able to size the situation up over the phone and give a flat price. Each situation is different and the price paid should be different as well. What the client is unconsciously doing is substituting his price desires for the lawyer's experience. For example the lawyer's hourly rate is $200.00. The lawyer feels the case is simple and shouldn't take more than five hours. Then the client feels his cost is $1,000. But this isn't always true.
First, honest, reputable lawyers charge by the hour. Some matters are small and requires a flat fee. Be sure to understand what is being quoted and why.
Second, consideration must be given to the type of case it is. A murder case or a complex litigation matter requires high skill sets. The lawyer might find the defense easy because he's handled thirty murders but make no mistake. Easy is not always "easy".
Third, the amount of time and investigation the case will require. Often times these are things that are not seen by the client. Talking to prospective witnesses, the investigator, or just going over deposition testimony, requires much time and skill. To recap, pricing over the telephone can be misleading. You need to sit and discuss with the lawyer all the things he plans to do. You need to discuss with him as well all the things you expect to done. So, as you can now imagine, every fee quotation is different.
When considering hiring a lawyer I offer four recommendations!Below you'll find a list of recommendations that are not exhaustive but effective to gain the information you need for hiring a lawyer.
Recommendation #1 "Make a committment to yourself to hire the best lawyer for you and your family.The message here is short, sweet and explanatory. "You deserve the best and a commitment lawyer for your case. One that's going to understand your concerns and addresses them in a way that will be protective for you, your family, and your business. The longer you wait, the more you increase the risk of jeopardizing even losing your rights,wealth, and or freedom.
Recommendation #2 "List your objectives."Again simplistic in statement but vital in all respects. You and the lawyer must be on the same page. The trains must be on the same track going in the same direction or risk imminent derailment of your case. Discuss with your lawyer what you want to achieve.
Recommendation #3 "Ask questions!"The way you learn about a lawyer is to ask specific questions and listen carefully to the answers. Here are the questions I suggest you ask:
1. How many years have you practiced law?
2. Do you have true litigation experience?
3. How many jury trials have you had?
4. What are your professional affiliations? A.B.A. National Bar Association, National Association of Premiere D.U.I Attorneys, National Association of Personal Injury Attorneys, etc. 5. Where are you licensed to practice?
6. Why do you want me as a client?
7. How often do you return telephone calls?
This list of question is just a starter. The important thing is to communicate with the person you going to be sharing some critical time with.
Recommendation #4: "Ask about the fee up front!"Once you're satisfied that you're working with an honest, competent professional lawyer, invite him to consider your case and ask for a specific fee quotation in writing. A written quotation gives you the assurance that you know exactly what your job will cost --no surprises. By following these four recommendations, you'll gain all the information you need to make an informed, intelligent decision. If you want a quick, cheap lawyer, the phone book with the double truck ads, T.V. Guide or late night T.V. can help you. Better yet, why not just represent yourself....I forgot, what did Abraham Lincoln say.... "A person that represents himself has a fool for a client!" You get the picture.