Selecting an Attorney
- SPECIALIZATION: Whether selecting an estate planning attorney, a personal injury attorney or any other type of attorney, the most important question is whether that attorney's practice emphasizes the area of law that you need assistance in. Legal concepts are complex and constantly changing, and in my experience, the only way to provide the client the level of competence that the client expects and deserves is for an attorney to focus on a limited number of legal disciplines.
When you have a knee injury that needs surgery, what kind of doctor do you see? An orthopedic surgeon of course. If your Honda Accord is having problems would you rather take it to a general mechanic or one who specializes in imports, or even better yet, who specializes in Honda’s.
People often incorrectly assume that a specialist costs more. It is generally understood that a specialist will have more experience and skill in their area of specialty than will a generalist, but in addition, a specialist’s higher level of experience and knowledge usually means that the specialist can offer their services in the most cost effective manner possible.
- HOURLY RATE OR QUOTED FEE: Don’t make the mistake of choosing an attorney based on price. If your attorney is the cheapest around what does that say about the quality of their service? Similarly, if your attorney is the most expensive you shouldn’t assume that they are the best. What is important is that you are charged a fair fee for the services that you receive.
In all circumstances you should expect your attorney to provide you with a fee estimate as soon as possible and to keep you informed if a change in circumstances changes the fee estimate.
- AVAILABILITY: Attorneys have a well deserved reputation of being difficult to reach. Before you hire an attorney ask them how easy it is to reach them and what is their phone call return policy. If this question elicits a blank stare, beware. Many attorneys have responded to client’s expectation that they be able to reach their attorney, while some have not.
My policy is to return every phone call on the same day whenever possible. When I am out of the office I check my messages regularly.