Selecting a car is easier than selecting an attorney because with a car you can see the features you are buying, take it for a test drive, and understand the value for which you are paying. I can’t demonstrate for you our latest lawyer model (complete with full leather suits, heated loafers, and twin turbo briefing skills), so how do you decide?
Further, some of the best lawyers I have seen are relatively unknown. And some of the most famous lawyers I have seen are not necessarily that good. No surprise really, since a successful lawsuit depends on far more than the skills of a single lawyer. That’s like saying a quality skyscraper depends on the skills of a single construction worker. It takes a team to be successful—along with a ton of perseverance and hard work. Funny how we readily accept that it takes a team to build a bridge, but we expect complex legal work over the life of a complicated legal case to be handled by a single person.
Let’s take another example: Apple computers. No one would say that Steve Jobs, along with a single engineer, could have created the world’s most valuable company. It takes a huge team of professionals and dedicated employees to make even one of Apple’s many products. So why should one of the most important issues in your life—your Trust or Will lawsuit—be handled by a single person? It makes no sense.
In selecting a lawyer or a law firm, you first need to ensure that the firm you are hiring matches the philosophy in which you believe. This is a fundamental issue in choosing any lawyer. You will never be satisfied with your legal representation if you and the law firm you choose do not see eye-to-eye on basic issues of how to handle your case.
Next, any good lawyer should be able to fight hard for your rights when talking to the outside world, but also be brutally honest when telling you about your case in private. Every case has its warts. After a decade and a half of law practice I have never seen the perfect case, and I never will. Human interactions involve complications. And those complications become fodder for argument and distraction by the opposing attorney. You need to know about them, discuss them, and deal with them if you have any chance to succeed. No one wants to hear the bad stuff, but it is a necessary part of the process and your lawyer cannot hold back.
Next, you need to be able to understand what is occurring in your case and the path to move forward. Your lawyer should be able to clearly communicate to you without confusing you with legal mumbo-jumbo.
Finally, you should find a lawyer who wants to provide you value for your money. That can be hard to measure beforehand of course. Lawsuits are expensive no matter who handles your case. So if you are going to incur the expense, you want valuable services to be performed. That includes meaningful discovery to find (or try to find) relevant evidence, depositions, excellent pleadings, briefs and motions, and well crafted arguments in court.
It can take some extra effort to find the right lawyer for you, but it pays to shop around and be sure you found the firm that meets you needs.