Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lawyer as the Client - News You Can Use about Hiring Lawyers

What me? Hire a lawyer? Yes, folks... From time to time, I too need advice and guidance from my fellow club members. After having a very recent and very terrible experience with an attorney - and one who actually was a guest at my wedding - I would like to offer a few good tips for hiring professional legal counsel (other than the obvious, that if you came to my wedding and I later hire you to do something, you can be SURE I will scrutinize every move you make and you had better do your job correctly, if that were not an obvious).

So, here goes! News and Tips you can use to make better relationships and experiences with your lawyer, in no particular order:

  • Outline what you want
  • Be sure on exactly what the lawyer is or is not going to do. You can really be disappointed when you hear about what all the "other" lawyers do for their clients and yours is lazy, and refuses to do "this or that". I mean, really bummed.
  • Be sure to compare and contrast what others are charging. What may be offered as a "discount" or a favor may be high or low, depending on what you need. I don't personally think that less than a few hours of the lawyer's time and one or two hours of the secretary's time justifies a $1000 fee, since there is no way that the secretary costs the lawyer as much as the lawyer costs me. In most cases, if there is a flat fee, it's still based upon the amount of time a task takes, based upon a typical "hourly rate".
  • Ask who will be doing most of the work. While there is nothing wrong with having an assistant - I don't hire the secretary or law clerk as my lawyer, and you shouldn't either! If I wanted a law clerk to do all the work, then I refuse to pay the lawyer's rates, so there needs to be some justification when the lawyer is charging me for what his secretary or paralegal did. Ask. Find out!
  • Before the document is filed or the paper drafted (or whatever you are working on) be sure that the lawyer has read it and can confirm that it's complete. It's really embarrassing when you are at a hearing before an important official and you are by yourself because your lawyer stupidly told you that it was a bad idea for him to be there (especially when everyone else had their lawyers present) and the hearing officer discovers your lawyer's mistake. Rolling your eyes helps, but just the same, your matter can be seriously screwed up when your "attorney" doesn't do his job correctly. Be sure. Double check. Every thing must be perfect.
  • Ask your lawyer if they have malpractice coverage, or look up their status online. You can find information about Illinois attorneys and whether or not they carry malpractice coverage. Mistakes cost money, and you don't really want to use a lawyer that doesn't care enough about himself to have insurance. Would you really want to drive with someone who didn't have car insurance? I don't think so. Check. Be careful.
  • Lastly, don't be afraid to get a few consultations. I made the mistake of hiring this "friend" without really shopping around. This yokel came to my wedding, ate the cake and talked with my mother, so I certainly didn't hesitate to hire him. Now, I am reminded that just because someone can dress up and look nice, it doesn't mean that they do a good job at their job. Take the time to meet a few lawyers before selecting one. Anyone who would be offended that you are "shopping around" is no one you want to hire. Now keep in mind that if it's me you are consulting with, I won't let you waste too much of my time before I need to be hired and compensated, but that is not the same thing as being careful about who you hire. Getting 3 consultations (even those you have to pay for) is good investigation into how your situation can and should be addressed, and you will be able to make a much better decision. Time spent learning is not time or money wasted.

All in all - while going with your initial gut is usually a good idea, I remind you that even us lawyers do have to live and learn sometimes. None of us have crystal balls, and we all need some advice from time to time. If you are careful, patient, and do your homework, you are more likely to find a lawyer that is themselves careful, patient and competent.

As always, for additional information, email me at:


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. "I remind you that even us lawyers do have to live and learn sometimes."

    Trust me, none of us thinks lawyers are super-being, to say the politest.