By Emilee Gehling and Kecia Van’t Hof
Your ideal lawyer is someone you completely trust and who you believe is always doing what is in your best interest. But finding out which lawyer is going to be that someone for you can be tricky. The best way to know if a lawyer is good or not is to look at the following considerations: communication, deadlines, promises, office atmosphere, and billing practices.
Communication is a great way to tell if a lawyer is a good one or not. A good lawyer will respond to your emails and calls as soon as they can. You won’t have to wait weeks, or even months, to hear back from them. No matter how big of a case load a lawyer has, they have the duty to keep in contact with their clients and answer their questions in a reasonably timely manner. If a lawyer is always blowing off your calls and not responding to your emails, then they are probably not the best lawyer for you. You want to make sure that your lawyer is doing what is in your best interest and talking to you directly is a sure tell sign of them not having your best interests in mind. Keep in mind, however, that by nature of their business, a lawyer has busy seasons, such as a trial, which can make it difficult for them to communicate immediately. If that is the case with your lawyer, keep in mind that a busy lawyer is often the sign of a good one.
The next way to tell if a lawyer is a good one or not is to see how they handle deadlines. Good attorneys do NOT miss important deadlines. I repeat, “Good attorneys do NOT miss important deadlines”! If your attorney is missing deadlines, even if it is just one, then they are most likely not organized and are not well equipped to handle several cases. A good attorney will be able to organize all of their clients’ deadlines and be sure to never miss one. Again, this is because a good attorney has their clients’ best interests in mind and if they miss a deadline, then that affects their client’s case. If an attorney is known to miss deadlines, or if you have an attorney who has missed a deadline for you, then this is a major red flag.
Promises are also a red flag when it comes to deciphering whether an attorney is good or bad. A good lawyer will never make their client a promise. There are too many factors at play for a lawyer to be able to promise a specific outcome. A good lawyer might tell you what they think will be the end result of your case, or perhaps even say that they believe you have a good chance at being successful, but they will never make a promise because there is a lot of discretion in the law (i.e. the judge’s interpretation of the laws, how the jury reacts to evidence presented to them) therefore, nothing is ever 100% guaranteed.
If a lawyer is a good one, their office atmosphere will reflect that. This means that a lawyer’s office space should be organized and clean. Their staff should be welcoming and friendly. The best way to tell how a lawyer treats other people is to see how they interact with their staff. If they are rude to them, short with them or if their staff members look like working is the last thing that they want to do, this could be a sign that the lawyer is not a quality one. A lawyer should be respectful and pleasant with their staff members. After all, they help the lawyer to stay on top of with daily tasks. Make sure that a lawyer has a good and positive office atmosphere before deciding whether to hire them because it could reflect how future interactions with the attorney and his or her office will be going forward.
Finally, a good way to tell if a lawyer is good or not is by looking at their billing practices. Make sure to look for hidden and vague expenses. If a lawyer is putting in expenses but not completely explaining what they are for, then this is not a quality lawyer. A good lawyer will explain, in detail, why they are billing you to ensure that the time and expense is clearly communicated between the two of you. You shouldn’t look at a bill and not understand why the total is what it is. If things don’t add up, or you or unsure of why a certain number appears on the bill, then the lawyer’s billing practices are not quality and you should consider another lawyer.
It is very important for a person to have a good, quality, lawyer. In order for you to determine if a lawyer is good or not, consider their communication skills, their ability to meet deadlines, whether they are making promises they can’t keep, their work atmosphere and their billing practices. If the lawyer is posing any red flags in those areas, then they are not your best option. Make sure to always figure out whether your lawyer is good one or not before hiring them. A lot of these issues can be tackled in the first initial contacts with the lawyer so be sure to be observant and if you notice any issues with the above considerations, move on and find someone who you can trust and who has your best interests in mind.