Do your research with due diligence. Interview a lot of different firms and attorneys (I’m talking 5 to 10, not just 2 or 3—you’ll never get a feel for the diversity of competence and incompetence unless you do). Don’t be offensive in your questioning, but do ask candid and serious questions of those you interview to get an idea of the lawyer’s (and of the office’s) personality and professional culture, and approach to the work.
Lawyers are trained to be persuasive, so don’t be taken in by simply what they say or how well you perceive they say it. Most lawyers who are mediocre and incompetent can still charm you in conversation fairly well, if you’re not discerning.
Don’t hire the least expensive or the most expensive attorney. Hire the best attorney you can afford, and if the best attorney you can afford is incompetent, then you either need to get more money for a good attorney or you’re probably better off with no attorney at all. Paying an incompetent attorney is just wasting your money.
Don’t base your decision on online reviews. Great online lawyer reviews are easy to fake and usually are fake.
Don’t hire based solely or primarily upon the recommendations of friends alone. Some friends have no idea who’s good or bad, but they “recommend” people so that they look smart and connected, not really to help you. Some friends surprisingly don’t know a good attorney from a bad one, even if they think they do.
Even when you’ve done your best to ensure you hired a good attorney, it is virtually impossible to know whether you’ve hired a good or bad divorce and family lawyer until after you’ve worked with him/her for a few days or weeks. Pay close attention in those first days and weeks.
“Hire slow, fire fast” is good advice for who your attorney is. Take your time to find who you believe—after conducting a solid investigation—is a good attorney before you hire one. In the unfortunate event you realize your attorney stinks, don’t beat yourself up about; many, many lawyers succeed by being deceitful. But once you discover your choice of attorney was a bad choice (a bad lawyer), replace him/her as fast as you reasonably can. Don’t try to reform your bad attorney. Odds are high that it won’t work. Don’t hold on to your incompetent attorney because of sunk costs. Your lousy attorney will only cost you more the longer he/she stays on your case. Hire slow, but fire (when you need to fire) fast.
If your lawyer:
- (or a member of his/her staff) returns your calls and emails and text messages promptly and addresses all of your questions and concerns (your good, thoughtful questions and concerns—if you are the type who runs to the phone or the computer in a panic or on a whim with any and every question having failed to do your own homework first, expect your lawyer to get testy with you sooner than later);
- (or a member of his/her staff) promptly sends you complete copies of correspondence with opposing counsel and others involved in the case;
- (or a member of his/her staff) promptly sends you complete copies of everything he/she files with the court and that opposing counsel files with the court;
- (or a member of his/her staff) sends you drafts of the motions and other documents he/she is preparing to file with the court, so that you can review and comment on them and approve them for filing with the court before they are filed with the court;
- and his/her staff reflect a desire to do their best in every aspect of their work;
- checks in with you regularly to give you update and to see how you’re holding up;
- explains the legal process to you before you file your case and as your case unfolds;
- shows up to court on time, is clearly knowledgeable of the facts and the applicable law, and is prepared to argue your case zealously at hearings;
- isn’t afraid to tell you when your case or elements of your case is/are weak, and doesn’t offer or agree to do whatever you want “if the price is right”; and
- isn’t afraid to take your case to trial (in other words, isn’t champing at the bit to get you to agree to quick and dirty settlement),
you likely have a good lawyer. A lawyer who delivers real value for the money you pay your lawyer. If your lawyer or his/her staff doesn’t do these all of these things, you likely have a bad lawyer.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277