How Do I Find a Good Lawyer I Can Trust?
Easy (-er said that done, but still easy to give you the sure-fire directions).
In my opinion, after more than 20 years in practice:
- Be reasonable, be decent. If you are mentally ill or so self-absorbed that you expect the world to revolve around you, if you refuse to acknowledge and suffer the faults and culpability of you and your fellow man, if you are so bitter that you cannot even remember—let alone believe in—sweet, you can never be satisfied, you can never accept reality. “To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.” (Thomas Paine) Be prepared generally to pay high prices for high quality. There may be a brilliant, skilled, tenacious lawyer out there who works for free or cheap, but that’s highly unlikely. To do well your lawyer must be paid well.
- Since you almost certainly glossed over #2, I’ll reiterate it because it’s “an inconvenient truth,” but an inescapable truth: Be prepared to pay a high price for high quality. There may be a brilliant, skilled, tenacious lawyer out there who works for free or cheap, but that’s highly unlikely. To do well your lawyer must be paid well. There really are no shortcuts. You almost certainly cannot escape paying through the nose for high-quality legal services. The effort it takes to find the independently wealthy family lawyer who practices law out of the goodness of his/her heart is not worth the wasted effort and time. You’ll have an easier time finding Sasquatch. THAT STATE, HOWEVER, high fees aren’t synonymous with good. Plenty of attorneys have learned that trick—charge high fees to give the impression you’re good—and plenty of people fall for it. Don’t you be one of them. Remember: buy cheap, pay twice, and you never regret paying for quality. Once you have come to terms with the fact that high-quality legal services require a high price (or at least a higher price than you first expected to pay):
- Educate yourself on what makes a good lawyer a good lawyer. To learn this accurately, find and speak with a retired lawyer or judge or two or three or four whom you can trust (lawyers, even former lawyers who were former judges, are frequently very insincere and/or apathetic people, so make sure you speak with retired lawyers and judges who aren’t beholden to the profession anymore, who actually care about you, and who can give you an honest opinion). Once you know what to look for in a great lawyer, you won’t waste your time and effort searching in the wrong places. Finally, ask these trusted retired lawyers and judges who the lawyer are that they trust.
- Good lawyers are smart.
- Good lawyers are usually experienced.
- Good lawyers are tough. They don’t take any crap from anyone, including their clients.
- Good lawyers are fearless.
- Good lawyers are honest with you and with the court.
- Good lawyers care about justice and equity.
- Good lawyers exercise good judgment.
- Good lawyers are resourceful.
- Good lawyers know their limits and the limits of the legal system (see #4 below).
- Good lawyers have the courage to level with their clients about their chances of obtaining what their clients desire.
- Good lawyers provide an honest day’s labor for an honest day’s pay.
- Unscrupulous lawyers can be surprisingly—even shockingly—effective, but they cannot be trusted in the long run. He who will lie for you will lie to you (old Bosnian proverb). Don’t give in to the temptation to hire an unscrupulous lawyer. There is more to life than winning your case and losing your soul in the bargain.
- Interview not two, not 5, but at least 10 different attorneys to find the right one. Old ones, young ones, expensive ones, less expensive ones. Men, women, vets, non-vets. Democrats, Republicans. Mexicans, Vietnamese, Lebanese. Sample a lot. The biggest problem people have in finding the right lawyer for them is that they fail to search enough for the right lawyer.
- Do not lie to your lawyer. Lying to your lawyer in the belief that somehow the lawyer can “launder” your lies into believable ideas or even facts is not merely wrong, it’s a fantasy.
- Know going in that even after you hire a good lawyer, your case will require a substantial amount of your own blood, sweat, and tears to ensure your lawyer is as effective as he/she can be.
- Acquire and accept realistic expectations of your lawyer and the legal system. The legal system is, by and large, well-designed but poorly implemented. The justice system is not all that just. I wish this weren’t true, but it is. Even the best lawyer cannot compensate for the mass and volume of mediocrity of the system. There may be nothing the law can do for you. If so, accept it and then spend your time, effort, and resources making the best of things despite the injustices—real and imagined—that you suffer in life. All happy people in this imperfect world have learned to do this, and you can too. There is more than one way to skin a cat.