Choosing an attorney can be a daunting task. If you don’t have the perfect referral from a trusted friend or advisor, where do you begin? Certain factors should be considered and thoroughly explored when selecting an attorney. By following these commonsense suggestions, you will increase the likelihood of finding the right attorney for you.
While there are “generalists” who do amazing work, chances are you will be better served hiring a specialist based on your particular legal needs. There a few reasons for this. Obviously, the key benefit is that a specialist will have a more robust base of knowledge in their chosen field. They will have seen outcomes to situations similar to yours, and they will be able to rattle off facts, points of law, and predictions without needing to do prep work or background research in certain law practices. These factors add up to a very significant benefit: fewer billed hours. While most good attorneys are able to “figure things out” in order to offer competent legal services in nearly any practice area, a non-specialist will require more time spent getting everything sorted, leaving you with a higher bill for that extra effort. And even if an attorney can get “up to speed” relatively quickly, they will still lack the wisdom of an expert in the field. A specialist is worth their weight in gold when they know how things will play out in the long run, what arguments and strategies are likely to win the day, and how to forecast changes in their field to better serve their clients.
Contrary to popular belief, most attorneys do not fit the cliché of the status-obsessed, unscrupulous opportunist. Not all are “attack dogs” or professorial. There are many different shades of attorney, and it is wise to think about what sort of personality and professional approach best suits your legal needs. Many transactions are collaborative in nature and you will be better served by an attorney who works well with others and “builds bridges.” Other transactions are highly contested and require a stern, unbending approach. Litigation, by its nature, is adversarial, but there is also room for collaborative problem solving. Thus, it is good to understand how your prospective business lawyer will do their work under varying conditions. In general, attorneys have their “default setting,” but good attorneys know when and how to “turn on” the approach that best serves the situation. When selecting an attorney, be mindful of their default setting, but interrogate their ability to change their approach in various contexts. Expect your attorney to meet the needs of the situation at hand and be weary of any who suggests that their “one way” is always the best way.
We are now long past the days of people wondering what “Yelp” is. “Yelp” is now a verb as much as a noun (“Is this juice bar any good? I’ll Yelp it.”). Sure, we have all seen some absurd and/or meaningless user reviews, but it is clear at this point that user reviews reveal very clear themes about a product or service. People who feel strongly one way or the other about an attorney are likely to leave a review on Yelp or similar sites. Failing to maintain good public reviews may indicate undesirable traits in an attorney. Either they are too out of touch to care about user reviews, or they are too nervous about what people will say about them. On the other hand, a collection of bad reviews speaks for itself. In the end, don’t be fooled that attorneys are somehow “above” other services providers in this respect. A good attorney should have glowing reviews and should encourage their potential clients to read them.
When speaking to an attorney about your legal needs, be sure to inquire if they have taken on your type of situation before and how they handled it. While there are no guaranteed outcomes in the legal profession, there are surefire signs of quality work. An attorney should be able to walk you through their processes and explain to you how each step benefitted their client. The legal process is not always as cut and dry as “wins” and “losses” (except in certain practice areas), so try not to focus too heavily on the black-and-white side of it. Instead, get a holistic understanding of how your prospective lawyer works through problems, how they choose different strategies, and how they identify “success” in specific situations. This information has actual value. If you approach an attorney like, “how many cases have you won??” you’re more than likely to get more showmanship than substance.
In summary, finding your perfect attorney is much more difficult than, say, finding a perfect dentist. That’s because an attorney can be many things to their clients: a collaborator, trusted advisor, counselor, advocate or even “attack dog.” Understanding how these roles will factor into your relationship with your attorney will help you make the right choice when the time comes. If you are looking for a business attorney, the professionals at Shenon Law Group have the expertise, depth of knowledge, and personalities to ensure the best possible outcomes for our clients.