5 Critical Mistakes Often Made When Hiring a Lawyer and How to Avoid Those Mistakes
Posted On April 9, 2022
Hire a lawyer with little experience
1. People often hire an attorney who has little or no experience in the practice area in which they seek representation. A person who has used an attorney to handle one area of the law may not want that same attorney to handle another area of the law. Even if previous representation was excellent, that attorney may be the wrong choice for a different facet of the law. The practice of law has become increasingly specialized and there are fewer and fewer general practitioners who can effectively manage multiple areas of practice. If you choose an attorney who focuses on your particular area in which you need help, you have a much better chance of success. You can further increase your chances of success by finding an attorney who not only focuses on your particular area, but also has a long history of experience in the particular area. There is no substitute for experience. It can take 3-5 years to become proficient in a practice area if the lawyer engages in that area on a consistent basis. For a lawyer who handles only one or two cases like hers a year, she will likely never master that area.
Choosing a lawyer solely based on price
2. Sometimes people choose a lawyer based on price alone. Don’t let price be the determining factor when hiring an attorney. It must be one of many factors, but never the only factor. This buy pricing mentality could be a very critical mistake depending on the area of law. A quality attorney can often end up saving a client a substantial amount of money by knowing how to properly handle a case. Saving a little money in the initial hiring process can sometimes lead to bigger losses in the long run. The old adage that you get what you pay for is often true.
Now, that is not to say that a less expensive attorney is always inferior or that a less expensive attorney provides poor representation. However, I would never hire the $99.00 attorney just because he is the cheapest. That attorney may have less experience. That lawyer can charge less because he does less. He may not be willing to answer your questions or attend to the details necessary for your case to run smoothly. Beware of attorneys who advertise a very low initial fee and then add additional services that other attorneys may include in their flat fee agreements. I also wouldn’t hire a lawyer who charged an exorbitant amount. We live in a capitalist society and some lawyers charge the moon and the stars for their services. The most expensive lawyer is not necessarily the best. I would focus on hiring quality representation that leads to positive results. A respected attorney would deliver that benefit for a reasonable fee and provide a written contract that describes his services in an understandable contract.
Don’t ask critical questions
3. People don’t ask critical questions at the hiring stage about the attorney’s ability, experience, knowledge, and success rate. Be prepared to ask the prospective attorney direct questions. After all, you are the consumer and you should have a clear idea of the attorney you are hiring. The lawyer must ask himself how many cases of this nature he handles and what percentage of his practice involves this area. Will he personally oversee the case or will he just delegate it to an associate or paralegal? Will you be available for ongoing questions, either in person or by phone? How many years has the attorney been engaged in the particular area and what is their success rate? Can you provide names of satisfied customers? Does the attorney take continuing legal education training in the particular area? Is he a member of any local, state or national organization related to the particular area? How is his reputation among his peers? Would he be able to provide any references? Does he have any published work on the subject or has he prepared any useful educational material on the subject that I can review? These are just some of the questions that should be asked at the initial stage of the interview. Your legal situation is of great importance in your life. Take the time to ask the prospective attorney some awkward questions. The answers will be very revealing. Within minutes you will know whether or not you are meeting with a qualified attorney who is right for you.
Don’t overpay for inferior service
4. Overpaying for inferior service. Lawyers are in the service business. If they don’t provide excellent customer service, they’re not worth hiring. The client should have extensive access to the attorney and the information in the attorney’s personnel file. Some attorneys charge a high premium but provide very poor service. Some attorneys restrict access by limiting the hours, days, and hours that file information can be obtained. Make sure you will be treated with respect at all times. And that means your questions are answered or your phone calls are returned within a reasonable amount of time. Make sure that the lawyer or law firm you hire values you as a client and does not perceive you as just another number. Will you receive friendly treatment from the attorney and staff? These are factors that you should carefully consider when choosing an attorney. When you meet an attorney for the first time at their office, consider the service factor of both the attorney and the staff. Is this a place you would feel comfortable dealing with for weeks or months? What does your gut say about the services being provided?
Failure to check attorney status and references
5. Failing to verify attorney status with the licensing board and failing to check against any references if they were provided is the last critical mistake to avoid. Wouldn’t you like to know if the attorney you are interested in hiring is listed in good standing? What if there were complaints pending against that attorney for negligence or worse? These are issues that would certainly affect his hiring decision if he were aware of them. Also, did you check against any of the references that were provided? Did you call each of the names provided to see if they would recommend the attorney? Was their case even remotely similar or in the same area of the law as yours? Ask them to point out at least one weakness in the attorney’s representation or at least one area that could be improved. A little effort at the beginning of your case by way of research can make a big difference in choosing your attorneys.