When facing a lawsuit or legal crisis, a great deal of stress can weigh you down even more than the issue you are facing itself. For example, think of the stress building up when you are unable to work after decades of steady employment, and you don’t know where to turn to receive disability benefits. Or, when you are contemplating sensitive needs to protect family and loved ones in case of death or disability, but you do not know who to consult with or even where to begin when considering such a distressing situation.
In situations like these, you should not have to go at it alone, especially if it requires a specialized degree of skill and legal acumen to properly filter your options and carefully craft recommendations on how to move forward to tackle the problem you are dealing with. This is why choosing the right lawyer for you is critical in determining how to obtain the results you are seeking. It can make or break your case.
Choosing a lawyer to work with can feel overwhelming sometimes, and the legal issue is a hassle in and of itself. But you must not hastily make a selection because just any lawyer won’t do. Aside from selecting a lawyer with adequate knowledge and expertise on the issue you are dealing with, you must choose one with a high degree of trust and comfort in sharing detailed, sensitive information. Simply put, a lawyer you are confident won’t compromise your position. If that initial trust isn’t there, you should not go forward with representation or terminate immediately if services have already commenced, because it will negatively affect your relationship and the kind of legal strategy that needs to be applied in your particular case.
Aside from legal competence and a healthy level of trust, be on the lookout for these additional factors when choosing a lawyer to work with:
Look for a lawyer who will not take your money upfront if they know they cannot help you or do not have the credentials to support their knowledge of the law regarding your specific case.
During an initial meeting, the lawyer should listen to your issue, collect pertinent details and information, and likely even review relevant documents in your possession that may be helpful in explaining your claim. Whether this initial meeting is paid or not, a good lawyer will have a grasp on the matter at hand after the meeting and be able to tell how or whether the case can move forward. An even better lawyer will evaluate your case with a thorough screening procedure. Having this system in place allows the lawyer to determine whether your case is a good fit as far as subject matters in which the firm typically accepts. Additionally, this system flags any potential conflicts the firm may have in representing you, in which case the firm must decline representation because it cannot provide the necessary support and advocacy for your issue.
As an example, at Patterson Justice Counsel, we are often asked about matters involving family law issues like divorce or child support, which we do not handle. Instead of inviting these clients to provide more information or allowing them to schedule a paid consultation right away, we carefully evaluate the nature of the legal matter and let the client know their problem is outside of our legal expertise.
Seek a lawyer who is honest about fees and costs.
Entering into a legal representation contract is a business decision, and once an agreement is reached, be sure you are clear on the attorney fees, the work associated with the matter, and additional court costs and expenses involved before signing. Ask questions if you are unclear. A good lawyer is happy to answer any questions you have about costs and will let you know the value and scope of the services you are receiving, as well as the amount of additional expenses such as court filing and witness fees. If a disagreement comes up over fees prior to signing the contract, a good lawyer will allow time for you to review and reflect on whether you want to move forward rather than pressuring you into any binding decision. Our work is important, and the last thing we want to worry about are any disputes about fees causing dissension with those whom we represent and are working with to obtain results in their best interests.
Gauge the quality of initial work and seek a second opinion as needed.
Finally, after work with a lawyer begins, gauge the quality of work initially done on your behalf and the willingness of the firm to truly advocate for you. If you feel it is lesser than what you need or desire, you can seek stronger counsel elsewhere. Much like getting a second doctor’s opinion, you can seek a second legal opinion. A great lawyer will welcome your decision to seek different counsel, and it can be worth your while to seek counsel elsewhere if you are not initially satisfied.
For example, a client who sought counsel from three previous lawyers for social security disability benefits, each of whom conveyed that the application would not be successful, contacted our firm. We disagreed with the previous legal opinions the client received, believing he was actually a great candidate for benefits based on age and work history. We took his case and ended up obtaining the maximum benefits owed to him, as well as securing early retirement benefits while his disability case was pending, allowing him to receive a monthly income during the nine months time before the successful decision was rendered. These types of results are not typical in every case but can be worth a second look. And, if you choose to seek a second option, make sure you properly terminate your agreement with the initial firm, so you do not remain represented by a firm you no longer wish to work with.
Don’t allow the stress of your legal challenges to run amok on your emotions causing you to choose to work with someone who may not fit your needs. More often than not, time is on your side, so do not immediately rush into an agreement without having an idea about what you need or desire for your legal representation. Calm your initial fears and worries so you are entering into a professional agreement with a clear mind and confidence in obtaining the best assistance for you.
The right lawyer will understand and work with you through your stresses, offering adequate legal guidance, compassion, and professionalism during a trying time to help restore and secure your rights and critical quality of life needs before the courts.
- This information is for general educational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.