How to Hire A Lawyer
Five part series on how to identify, interview and hire the best lawyer for you.full course
- How to Hire A Lawyer Part One: It All Begins With You
- How to Hire A Lawyer Part Two: What Doesn’t Matter
- How to Hire A Lawyer Part Three: Traits of the Best Lawyers
- How to Hire A Lawyer Part Four: Essential Qualifiers
- How to Hire A Lawyer Part Five: Interview
Why You Should Hire A Lawyer
Over the years, I have developed a reputation for taking difficult, messed-up legal problems and fixing them for my clients. I am not sure how I ended up in this niche. But I can tell you that nearly all terrible legal messes that have been dropped on my lap have one thing in common: the client did not hire a lawyer [or a good lawyer] until it was nearly too late. This typically results in far more stress and expense for the client than had I been hired before the problem.
Step One: It All Begins With You
Know your feelings about lawyers and identify any resistance you have to hiring one. Until you know what your sticking points are, you will not be able to find a lawyer who can address them. Think about whether you can commit to hiring a lawyer whom you can trust on a deep level. Once you are clear in yourself, you can find the right lawyer for you.
Reasons People Give Me On Why They Try to DIY Legal Work
If you have before or are considering now skipping the lawyer to do things yourself, you aren’t alone. Do any of these reasons for such a decision sound familiar?
- “I am a sophisticated and successful person. I understand things.”
- “I can read about this legal issue on the internet.”
- “I don’t like lawyers.”
- “I can call the plaintiff and reason with them.”
- “I don’t think this is a big deal.”
- “I haven’t been contacted by the plaintiff since being sued. No news is good news.”
- “Lawyers are too expensive and a rip-off.”
- “This issue is frivolous.”
- “Why should I have to do anything? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
I challenge you to consider this statement thoughtfully: those reasons are nothing more than rationalizations of deeper feelings (usually, pride, fear or shame).
These rationalizations are understandable responses to a legal situation. From the outside looking in, legal work may seem like a bunch of needless paperwork causing lots of delays — can’t you just write what you want in the contract without a bunch of hassle? Maybe lawyers seem like they are creating work just to charge you when everyone is otherwise happy without the fuss.
If you are dealing with a conflict, maybe the legal problem seems unfair or overblown. It surprises even sophisticated people that they are not easily resolved with a discussion and reasoning, or by just telling the judge your side of the story.
Or the legal situation causes you anxiety and you would rather not pay attention to it — much less spend money on a lawyer. Legal fees will cause you further stress by reminding you of the problem, and doubly so if they are a strain for you financially. Maybe you do not want to admit that you have anxiety or fear.
To avoid legal disaster, you must recognize these rationalizations for what they are. Then you can overcome them and make healthier choices.
Proverbs 16:18 tells us: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
All of my clients are smart, capable people. I respect their intelligence and their abilities to problem solve. But a truly wise man recognizes that which he does not know. A wise business owner delegates tasks to experts who are better than she at those tasks instead of trying to do and be it all. There is no shame in asking for help from an expert.
And lawyers are experts. Consider that a lawyer goes through three years of law school, passes a bar exam (in California, the pass rate is only 40%), and then spends years practicing and learning from other lawyers until they are competent enough to manage complex cases directly for clients. In fact, I would say that a lawyer with less than eight years’ experience is not experienced enough to handle complex legal work without a senior lawyer’s help. For more routine matters, the lawyer needs at least five years’ experience.
Law is not intuitive. The lawmakers (legislators and judges) are all lawyers and speak the language of law. As a consequence of lifelong training, they apply principles of law that are taught and not necessarily “commonsense.” Legal language is second nature to us lawyers but is frequently lost on non-lawyers — sometimes being invisible as it is still English.
Perhaps you do not like that the law is not easily decipherable by the regular person, but that is the reality.
It is also not a matter of simply looking up information on the internet. Law is not the rote application of written rules. Good lawyers can predict potential future problems (especially when it comes to business deals and contract drafting), based on all the weird things they have seen over the years. They can tell you the reasons for why they write something a certain way. They apply practical risk analysis, weighing factors that may not occur to you. They understand the customs of local courts and judges and have relationships and community resources.
And the best lawyers understand human behavior and can manipulate it (in an ethical, non-evil way). Negotiations, written advocacy and trials are each art forms requiring a delicate understanding of humans. Skillful lawyers do not rely solely on logic or rote memorization of “black letter” law. Nor are they mindless, aggressive bullies. They are like martial arts masters; they are not street thugs or a piece of software.
So believing that you can understand the complexities of the rules that govern society, which have developed over thousands of years and in response to millions of situations, by reading an article on a website, is silly if you think about it. You would not claim to understand the human cardiovascular system after reading an article on WebMD. Trying to practice amateur law is as absurd as practicing amateur medicine. And the consequences can be just as devastating.
Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.
Law is fundamentally about human relationships. It is about the rules we use to govern how we treat each other. There are bad lawyers, sure. There are greedy lawyers and there are immoral lawyers. But that is no different from the rest of the population. Sadly, the truth is:
Sometimes people will cheat you. Sometimes relationships you have with people will break and turn bitter. Sometimes sh*t happens and everyone looks out for themselves. Sometimes people will betray you.
It is not the lawyer that makes people flawed. The law is the complicated, messy, time-consuming way in which we deal with this reality. The lawyer gets you through the mess.
Why You Should Be Careful When Hiring a Lawyer
Lawyers exist to help you deal with life’s most vexing problems related to your liberty and property. Your lawyer is your friend, your confidant and your champion. You do not want to give someone such a position of trust and esteem lightly.
You need a lawyer who is intelligent, skilled, careful and understands your goals. You need to be able to trust your lawyer completely, particularly because you may not always fully understand why she must do something a certain way.
And let’s face it, lawyers are very expensive. The right lawyer will provide you value for your dollar (even if that value is the mitigation of a bigger loss). But again, you do not want to pay those dollars out lightly.
Finally, with the law, you do not get any do-overs. Particularly in a lawsuit, you do not have the luxury to test out different lawyers. You need the right lawyer from the start.
In any legal situation, a lot is at stake. So that is why you must be wise in your choices.
I have already mentioned some of the necessary qualities your lawyer must possess. For example, I have mentioned experience, judgment, artfulness, trustworthiness, intelligence, value and empathy. There are other necessary qualities as well. In the next four parts of this course, I provide you with detailed guidance on how to find a lawyer with these qualities, who is also the right fit for you. Also, please schedule a consultation with our business law attorneys at (800) 449-8992.
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