(Updated from 08/11/2018)
Nance was recently asked by US News & World Report’s Geoffrey Williams what not to do when hiring an attorney.
Here are the tips she gave him:
- Do not hire the first attorney you call. An attorney-client relationship is very personal. You will likely need to disclose embarrassing details about mistakes you’ve made. You might also need to candidly discuss your fears, values, and other potential vulnerabilities. Not every firm will give you the same experience. I recommend that you contact at least three attorneys to see who: a) gives you the clearest overview of the matter, b) respects you, and c) values you.
- Do not hire an attorney you don’t feel you can defer to. Be careful about engaging the first attorney you call, especially if you let Google decide who was “the best”. If you don’t know enough about your new representative, you will be very nervous about letting him or her do the work. This is possibly for good reasons. Take the time to get a few referrals and ask all the questions you have about your situation. This will allow you to sleep better, trusting that you are in good hands.
- Do not defer entirely to the attorney. Your attorney is interested in your case, but not to the extent you are. You also have information the attorney does not. Throughout the matter you will probably remember details you’ve forgotten. Delegate the legal work to your attorney, but stay involved in your case. Discuss strategy and potential outcomes, understanding that many things change as time passes, investigations are completed, judges are assigned, and more.
- Do not pay an attorney for administrative or investigation work you can do. Unless you are independently wealthy (unlike most clients), you will probably need the best possible representation on a very tight budget. The more organized and prepared you are, the less you will have to pay someone else for these services. Don’t be the equivalent of the client who shows up in an accountant’s office the day before the tax filing deadline and dumps a box of receipts on the desk.
- Do not mistake the attorney as a magician. Your attorney’s role is to interpret the law as it applies to the unique facts and circumstances of your matter. Attorneys also navigate the various procedures that must be followed. It is unethical, if not illegal, for them to help you figure out how to bend the law in your favor. Do not ask them how to lie on the witness stand or to keep you from experiencing any consequences for your actions.
- Do not expect your attorney to always be available. We want to provide you exceptional service. We want to provide it to our other clients, too. That means we will probably have our phones off in court. Sometimes, the courts won’t even allow us to have them with us. Regardless, we will be full-focused on the matter we are addressing. We might not be able to call you until a court-determined lunch break, late that evening, or the next day. Be patient with us. If you can’t be, there’s a good chance you don’t trust us enough to keep working with us. It might be time to screen another round of attorneys and substitute someone else.
Click here to read the full article, which contains tips from attorneys in a variety of focus areas.