Process of Hiring an Attorney Often Stressful and Intimidating
Always interview a potential attorney before hiring them.
For most of us, the process of hiring an attorney is stressful and intimidating.
We often hire an attorney during some of the most stressful periods of our lives.
When we make the difficult decision to sell a home. When our employment situation changes.
When we want to go into a new business. When the IRS comes to call. When we
suffer a serious injury, or, cause injury to others.
It is understandable that finding the right person to help us navigate those challenging circumstances can be difficult.
I have spoken to many people over the years, some clients, some not, that have had bad experiences with lawyers. In many cases, the problem was poor communication. The attorney failed to keep the client abreast of developments, leaving the client to wonder what was going on, and often fearing the worst.
In other cases, the clients believed that their lawyer failed to explain difficult concepts in a way the client could understand. Questions were not answered adequately and in many cases, relevant legal concepts were left unexplained, fueling suspicion on the client's part that something was amiss.
Early in my career as an attorney, I was privileged to spend many hours with U.S. District Court judge William Young in Boston. The judge conducted a seminar that required us to visit him in chambers once a week over the course of several months.
Judge Young said something one day that had a profound impact on me: "every lawyer is a teacher." He explained that everything an attorney does, ultimately, involves instructing a client, an adversary, another attorney or judge in some area of the law.
A good lawyer – like a good teacher - not only must have expertise in the subject at hand, but possess the requisite skills to impart that knowledge to others in a powerful and engaging way.
Throughout my career, I have tried always to follow Judge Young's advice.
I try to stay abreast of the various subject matters and offer my counsel to others in the clearest and hopefully most entertaining way possible. I may not always succeed, but my goal is that a client must never hang up the phone or leave my office without a sense of what is going on and what will happen next.
If you find yourself in a situation where you require legal help, you should interview a potential attorney thoroughly before making your hiring decision.
Inquire as to the attorney's policy for keeping the client abreast of developments. Ask the attorney to summarize some of the legal concepts involved in your situation in a general way, and then ask yourself whether the attorney has explained those concepts in a coherent and effective manner.
In short – ask yourself whether the lawyer is a good teacher. If the attorney's
comments leave you scratching your head, be warned. It's not likely that things will improve after the hiring decision is made.