5 Points to live by when hiring an attorney

Finding the appropriate lawyer for your case can be a difficult process. I remember the first time I needed an attorney, I think I did what most people do. I searched online for attorneys for the field I needed representation in and pretty much selected the first person I came across who looked legit (whatever that means).

For me personally, this was a big mistake. I was not adequately represented and I ended up hiring a second lawyer to replace the first. It cost me thousands extra to do so, but it ended up saving me over a hundred thousand in the long run.

It was at that moment that I realized that when it comes to attorneys all things are not created equal, and assuming that you will have decent representation is not a given.

So what did I learn that might help you?  I have composed 5 points to consider when it comes to hiring appropriate legal counsel.

  1. It’s not a level playing field. You must tell yourself this over and over during your search. It’s important to really accept it. When it comes to an auto mechanic, pressure washing service or even home builder, we all have a gut level understanding that not all professionals carry the same credentials, quality and customer service, but I believe it gets tricky when we get into the professional realm such as legal or medicine.  After all, professionals such as lawyers and doctors should all be pretty well trained, right? WRONG…I get it. We have a lot riding on things when our financial lives are at stake, but go in eyes wide open. The cross our fingers and hope for the best attitude will get ya hurt.
  2. Raving Reviews? Search the bar (any complaints?), read reviews and do appropriate due diligence. Discipline yourself.  What I found was that there are tons of factors that influence whether a professional is premium.  Remember that reviews can also be faked, so look everywhere and make sure they match up. Typically attorneys will refrain from blatantly advertising false information. You can see an example of an appropriate testimonials page on this site for a reference (notice the client confidentiality):
  3. Check yourself before you wreck yourself applies when hiring an attorney. Don’t rely on your emotions to tell you what to do. This is tough time and trusting your emotions may not be the best idea. I remember (going with my gut) instead of logic. Trusting over verifying will only get you broke in this ballgame.
  4. Fees aren’t your friend. Let me just use my example since that’s the one I know. Both attorneys I hired were damn expensive. I made an uneducated mistake believing that just because it cost a lot, it must be quality.One of the key differences I noticed up front was that the first attorney asked me lots of questions about what I did, what type of assets I had and wasn’t specifically interested in the details of the case.If your consultation goes into a shake down, let’s see how much ya got mode, beware.Also, if after the financial shake down, the attorney seems to pull a number out of the air. Also beware. They should have a set fee schedule not just a random number.Ask for their fee schedule (hourly rate).
  5. Documentation over discussion: You should also get a contract that covers (mostly) all of the aspects of your relationship such as how much paralegal support costs, or associate attorneys, etc. When I found my second attorney, I realized it was all very structured straight forward and transparent. If you don’t get that sense when dealing with an attorney, you may just want to look twice before you leap.

I hope this guide is a help to you should you ever find yourself in a situation needing an attorney. Remember there is wisdom in the counsel of many. Ask the people around you that know and love you what they think and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion if something doesn’t sit well with you. I did and it made a huge difference in my life. Good luck! -Joanie.