Six Signs You Hired a Bad Lawyer (for you)
In a perfect world every lawyer would be a perfect match for every client. In the real world your attorney's personality and style needs to match your needs as well satisfy your legal goals. Sometimes even the best attorney in the courtroom and office can cause you additional stress and money.
1. Poor Communication
If you find yourself feeling frustrated because you are unable to get a response or answer from your attorney or his office it may be time to get a new attorney. Before you change horses in the middle of a stream consider whether there is no communication or just not the communication you need or want. Today, many lawyers are text-ters, or facebookers, or emailers, or callers. That works great if you utilize the same communication medium, if you don't the problem might not be the lawyer or his communication skills just an interface problem. When hiring an attorney determine before you leave the initial meeting how information will be communicated to you, how court dates and expectations will be relayed to you, and what you can do if you are not getting what you need in response to your concerns. Some offices have 24 hour message return, night emails, or texted reponses. My office policy is simply if you don't get an answer on your second call, set a phone conference with the person you need to talk to. Phone conferences can often be done during court breaks, lunch, or even driving in traffic.
2. Personality conflicts
Some lawyers are high energy all the time. Some are calm and serene. Others are either somewhere in between or change based on the circumstances or what they had for breakfast. If you had to hire a lawyer, then you have a serious problem. You are going into a legal war with that lawyer and you need to be able to sit in the same foxhole with them. There is a lot of downtime even on mediation or trial day. Is the lawyer you are hiring going to make you feel safer or feel on edge? Even in the worst of circumstances a lawyers calming and rational demeanor can be worth more than any other skill. On the other hand, if the lawyer grates on your nerves or hypes the tension every time they open their mouth, you could still win your legal matter but want to die anyway.
3. Lack of Decisiveness
From the first meeting with your lawyer they should be able to lay out a plan for how to proceed with your legal matter. Yes, sometimes it requires they reseach a particular issue or law, but reseaching should be step one in the plan. A lawyer who says give me your money and has no plan, has a plan, and that plan is to take your money. Any time you talk to your attorney, they should be able to tell you what is the next step in your case.
4. Being on Time
Lawyers often have multiple cases set on any given day. The lawyer rarely has control over when hearings are set in the beginning of any case. Sometimes they never have control as many Courts and Judges have their own system of controling their dockets. Just because you don't see your lawyer at the call of the docket is NOT a reason to panic. Most lawyers are familiar with the procedures of the courts they practice in. Most Courts have call in procedures for lawyers so that their location and ETAs are known by the clerk and or Judge. As a general rule if the Judge calls your case, immediately stand up, wait for the Court / Judge to recognize you, and simply answer what is asked. Many times it may be a simple "who is your attorney?", and once you have answered the Court Clerk will check their records to see if the lawyer has called in. If for any reason you are waiting more than 30 minutes, either on your own or by request of the Court, call your lawyer's office and ask about arrival time and what you should do while waiting. Remember, if your lawyer only has one case a day or week, they probably either do not have a full time caseload or they charge prices high enough that they only have to do a few cases. Whether or not that is good or bad depends on your point of view and your pocketbook.
5. No Results
In almost any type of legal case there will be lulls where there is not much being done on any particular week or month. If your lawyer has explained the plan and you can communciate with them you should not have to worry if there is nothing done for periods of time. On the other hand if nothing ever seems to be done, no court dates are planned, no back and forth with the other side, and never any new information, it may be time to get a different lawyer. Too many people watch their retainers drain away with no solid idea of where the money went and no progress being shown. This leads to you running out of money, being fired by the attorney, and then having to hire another, hopefully more compentent lawyer, to finish the job on less funds than you had when you started the case. Hundreds of times I have had clients come in having spent thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in fees and have very little to nothing accomplished on their cases. The irony here is that the lawyer who steps up and basically completes the matter get pennies on the dollar compared to the lawyer who sat on the case for months.
6. Care and Empathy
Practicing law is like living with a troubled child, a drug addict, or a psychologically disturbed person. Every day the lawyer goes to work and deals with problems they did not create. Yes, they get paid to do it, but it can be very easy to simply label practicing law as 'the job' and the clients as 'cases' or 'files'. The best lawyers have the gift of actually caring about their clients, caring about them like friends or even family. It is that sense of care, friendship, and family that allows some lawyer to never have to pay for a yellowpages ad or television advertising because whenever someone has a problem, people refer them to their friend, to their family, to their lawyer. Like any job, some days are more stressful than others, more tiring than others, more brutal than others, but good lawyers, no, the best lawyers are always right there with you. In the same battle, in the same foxhole, with a plan to move forward and resolve your legal battle together.
Additional resources provided by the author
Lawyers, like products, may rate high in some of the above categories and low in others. The purpose of this article is simply to point out a way to rate your experience so that you can do better the next time you or a loved one need a lawyer, or to give you a reason to bail now and find one more suited to you and your needs to gird up for battle with. Firing a lawyer is just as easy if not easier than hiring one. A competent lawyer can usually come into a case at any point in the process either by agreement or by force. A competent lawyer is what any person needs to go to war with. If you feels dissatisfied with the way your case is progressing or information is communicated to you, tell your lawyer. He may very well think everything is fine the way it is. Give him a chance to change or modify his relationship with you, and if he doesn't, move on. There are as many ways to run an office and manage a legal case as there are laws on the books. Find the one right for you. Good luck and God bless. Bert Steinmann
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