When you have a problem or a situation that requires the expertise of an attorney, choosing the right attorney to address your needs is a task that should not be taken lightly. Your attorney needs to be your advocate and advisor, regardless of the type of matter at hand. The attorney needs to be cost-effective, ethical and reasonable, all while addressing your legal needs properly, diligently and timely. While first impressions may be important, you should always look deeper to ensure a good fit. The following are steps you should take to in order to pick a professional with whom you will be comfortable in all regards.
First, you want to know that your attorney has the necessary background and expertise in your required area of legal services. The last thing that you would ever want is to be a test subject or an experimental matter for your attorney. Even if you believe your matter is fairly simple or straightforward, or appears as such at the outset, circumstances change and the most simple issues can suddenly turn complicated and serious. You need to know that your attorney is well versed in handling your issue with ease, skill and success to meet your specific needs.
You want to look at the level of education of your attorney and whether this extra knowledge can serve your needs. You want to know whether the attorney has any specialized skills, degrees or certifications that may better serve your matter. For example, a trusts and estates attorney should be well versed in various tax consequences of transferring assets and should conduct careful tax analysis of the overall estate plan he or she prepares for you. Thus, having a tax or accounting knowledge for a trusts and estates attorney is essential to ensure that your needs are properly addressed from all angles. For that reason, some Trusts and Estates attorney are also CPAs or have masters in Law in Taxation, or both, to ensure that they provide comprehensive estate planning for their clients.
Next, it is critical to speak to your friends or trusted advisors and obtain references about the attorney that you are considering. While some folks may not want to reveal particular details about their private legal affairs, you can definitely obtain a general overview and feedback about a particular attorney. You can ask important general questions such as did the attorney handle the matter competently, efficiently, with diligence and care? Was the attorney responsive to communications, attentive to the client’s needs and available and accessible to answer questions or concerns? Would this person recommend the attorney? For example, at the first glance, a real estate attorney might be very experienced, specializing in this area of law and reasonably priced. However, that same attorney does not personally address the individual issues of the client that may arise in the course of the transaction and as a result, the client does not receive the level of service expected from a lawyer. Obtaining a recommendation from a friend or a trusted source could eliminate the potential trap of retaining a wrong attorney.
Once you have gone through the necessary steps and vetted the various options, you should feel comfortable in putting your legal needs in the hands of this competent professional. The more information that you provide to your lawyer, the more he or she can learn about your needs to better help you. Open communications, honesty and clear expectations from both sides will set the foundation for a productive, informed and successful relationship between attorney and client.
The above are important steps that you are well advised to take in order to make an informed decision that suits your needs.