5 Questions Everyone Should Ask Before Hiring an Attorney
The process of hiring an attorney is intimidating and overwhelming for most. We often spend a large portion of a consult talking about the reasons NOT to hire any attorney, much less us. One of our mentors gave us a piece of wisdom we still follow today, he said, "This might be the 900th client for you, but it is likely the 1st attorney for your client."
We take very seriously the real life impact these matters have on our clients lives. While many lawyers will tell someone that they are not their therapist, we understand that nothing in family law comes without emotional baggage.
The reality is that most people don't think very highly of lawyers, and in many cases that is for good reason. We have spent considerable time evaluating why people dislike lawyers, and what we can do to try and shift that for our clients.
Some of the basis for the bad feelings about lawyers has to do with WHY you need a lawyer, and that is not something we have much control over. The simple truth is that lawyers come into peoples' lives when bad stuff is happening. Lawyers don't plan peoples birthday parties, they help when things have gone sour. Bankruptcy, Wills, Car Accidents, Divorces, Contract Disputes, all reasons a lawyer would need to help you, and all negative situations at the core.
The things that we hear most often about bad experiences with lawyers center around two specific areas; First, poor customer service, Second, poor expectation management. At RPM Law we have taken a heads on approach to dealing with these two areas so that our clients can feel better about the process, regardless of the outcome in court.
In order to address customer service, we have focused our team on regular communication with our clients. Far too often we hear horror stories about the lawyer that took money and then couldn't be reached for months on end. Not only is that a problem ethically for the lawyer, but frankly it is a sure fire way to never earn a referral or business from people in the future. We have found that a little customer service goes a long way in maintaining the positive relationship we have with our clients. If you don't believe us, go check our reviews on Facebook (here) or Google, our clients will tell you how hard we work to ensure they are satisfied with our efforts.
The idea of expectation management is something we take as seriously as customer service. All too often we hear from people that a lawyer assured them that the case was a slam dunk, or that they could get them ownership rights to the moon. It may sound ridiculous, but no more so than the idea that any attorney could predict or promise the end result in any case. The plain fact is that if your case goes to trial, the judge will decide the outcome, and no lawyer can or should tell you they know how that will come out. When someone asks us what the odds are for a favorable outcome, we flat refuse to answer. It is far better to be honest with someone upfront, than to over promise a result. We prefer to have integrity in all we do, and lose potential clients, than to sell someone beach front property in Yuma so we can make a few quick bucks.
In the end, the military background that this team was built around guides us in everything we do. We believe in giving the facts to our clients, however unsavory or unpleasant they may be. We prefer to be respectful to people, even the other side, because we only have one reputation, and it isn't for sale.
We regularly get referrals from people we were on the opposite side of in a case. It is one of the biggest compliments we receive when someone says, "You kicked my buddies butt all over the courtroom last year, but you did it respectfully, so when I asked him for guidance in my situation, he sent me to you instead of the person he hired". That happens all the time, and we are grateful when it does, because it reaffirms for us one of the guiding principles of this team - "Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do"
So without further rant - Here are the 5 Questions Everyone Should Ask an Attorney Before Hiring Them
5. What areas of law do you practice, and how much experience do you have in those areas?
- The reality is that few lawyers "do it all" anymore, and for good reason. When someone calls or comes in to our offices with a question in tax law, they may as well be speaking Russian to us. We know little to nothing about that very complicated and intricate area of law, and hiring us to handle a matter in that area would not only be wasting your money, but likely would leave you in a worse place than when we started. If a lawyer can't or won't give you a straight answer about this, it should be a GIANT red flag for you moving forward.
4. Do you know the lawyer on the other side of the case, and if so what do you think of them?
- The legal community is small, and most of us have worked opposite each other on a case or two at a minimum. While we each have our own flavor and style, as a general rule being cordial and respectful to each other should be the standard not the exception. Most legal issues are full of bad feelings to begin with, adding two lawyers who want to stick it to each other because of some previous grudge is a recipe for disaster and big bills. We don't always have great interactions with the other side of a case, and frankly don't always have a great relationship with some of our colleagues, but as a general rule, we do our best to keep the case focused on our clients, and the interactions respectful.
3. Can I meet your staff?
- One of the worst kept secrets of the legal profession is how much of the work load is carried by the support staff in an office. The truth is that you will be speaking with the staff at least as much as the lawyer, if not more. This isn't a matter of you not being a priority, it is a matter of bandwidth and efficiency. There is one of me, 3 paralegals' and a receptionist, if your question can be answered by one of them, it will. If a lawyer isn't willing, or excited to introduce you to the staff, something is amiss. We are beyond proud of the team we have built here at RPM Law. Andrea, Sarai, Stephanie, and John are the backbone of this operation. Often the lawyers are in court for 6 to 7 hours a day, who do you think handles everything while we are out?
2. How do your fees work?
- This is probably #1 for most people when they come in to meet us for the first time and we understand why. The complexity of various fee structures is something for a future blog, but this much is clear... If a lawyer can't tell you what to expect, how to minimize costs, what could increase the costs, how the fee is structured, and what your options are for payment, then you should run for the hills. Even in the most complex matters we can give you a reasonable estimate of costs, areas of potential savings, and areas that may increase the costs.
1. Do I like this person?
- When speaking to potential clients I often compare lawyers to ice cream. The basic ingredients are pretty much the same, but the flavors are varied and diverse. We all went to law school ,passed the bar exam, have the same rules to follow, and practice in the same courtrooms, but, our flavors or styles run the gamut. At RPM Law we have 3 attorneys on staff, each with their own style or flavor. Matt is more aggressive, the picture of a type A personality. Andy is more measured and tactical, years of being an officer and helicopter pilot in the military trained him to carefully evaluate each angle before charging. Julia is more gentle, aware of the emotions and impacts involved, as someone who focuses much of her practice in the Juvenile Court, she is keenly aware of the impact these matters have on families and kids. For some people Matt is too loud, Andy too reserved, Julia too sensitive, there is no right or wrong, simple preference and taste. Contested legal matters will take their toll on you, even if you win, if you hate the lawyer representing you it won't matter the outcome, you will be bitter and disillusioned at the end. On the other side of things, many times you won't get everything you hoped for, but if you felt well represented, heard, and respected by the person representing you, you will be much more at peace when the process is over.
In the end picking and hiring the person who will represent you and tell your story in court is an important and emotional process. This list is hardly the be-all-end-all, but it is a start. Going into a consultation should feel like you are interviewing the attorney, inspecting their practice, and ensuring that they are the right fit for you in your time of need.
If you or someone you know is facing a family law, juvenile law, misdemeanor criminal, or traffic law issue; reach out to us today for a FREE consultation.
Phone : (520)740-1802