Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Attorney Before Retaining One – I’m a firm believer that a person who’s looking to retain an attorney should interview a few different lawyers/firms before making a decision on who should represent them. If the matter is serious enough to warrant an initial consult with an attorney to begin with, then it’s serious enough to meet with more than one attorney before deciding who to work with. While this idea and the following explanation has the potential to let business walk out the door, I routinely offer to potential clients that they talk to another attorney before signing up with me. Plus, I’m confident enough that my skillset and the services we can provide will be better than the “next guy” such that the potential client will come back anyway. If a potential client balks at signing retainer documents, I always offer that they go home with them, sleep on it, and interview someone else if they desire. But I do so knowing that my courtroom experience and related abilities will stand out against most of my competitors and lead the large majority of potential clients to sign up with our office.
Even if these folks interview another attorney but wind up coming back to us, it will not have been a waste of their time since they at least will have had the benefit of talking with someone else to investigate a different option. Perhaps your personal style and general approach do not comport with that attorney’s way of doing things. While the efficacy of the legal work is important, so is how you get along with the attorney. You and s/he will be working together closely for some measure of time over a very stressful event or issue. It’s important that your attorney is not only intelligent and capable but also friendly and receptive to answering questions.
With that in mind, please consider these questions when interviewing your potential attorney. And yes, you read that right: interview him/her. They want your business, and you have plenty of options in terms of who to select, some good, some maybe not. Make the attorney earn your case. Please note that some of these questions are specific to personal injury law, while others can translate to any area of law you’re interviewing an attorney to represent you for.
How long have you been practicing law? While the answer may not be dispositive, it can tell you a bit about where that attorney is in terms of their practice. Sure, an
attorney may have 30 years’ experience, but perhaps that same attorney has lost a step in the courtroom or his “trial table-side manner” and thinks he’s “too good” for dealing with the
daily client interaction. Likewise, you may be wary of a newly minted attorney who hasn’t handled many cases like yours before. But maybe that inexperience leads that attorney to
overprepare cases to make up for his lack of experience, which can be a positive.
How many cases have you TRIED/LITIGATED like mine? This is a big one. You don’t want an attorney who takes cases but always settles them (or refers them all out to
other attorneys because they don’t actually do the work and were hoping for an “easy” settlement. If he’s doing that, it’s likely because he doesn’t know how to try a case…and the
insurance companies keep track of this information. And so do State’s Attorneys, in criminal matters. (I’m not suggesting there’s actually a log of defense attorneys and how many cases
they’ve tried somewhere in a State database but, instead, making the point that the attorneys who are in “the trenches” every day can easily sniff out an attorney who rarely steps foot
in a courtroom.) They all know who has the guts to try and case and who is just going to bluster prior to trial but then fold when the offer doesn’t get any better.
If I have questions, who will answer them: you or a staffer? There’s nothing wrong with an attorney relying on his staff to assist his clients, but you should not have
difficulty talking with your attorney as you please. If you get any indication that the attorney delegates a majority of client interaction to his staff, it’s probably not a good sign.
(Related) What are YOUR office hours? There are attorneys who spend three out of five business days out of the office. Or others who have practices so large they can
take months off at a time while they vacation. I don’t begrudge them. I work the hours in the office because I don’t want to delegate certain critical client interactions to staff.
(Which is why I’m emphasizing the YOUR versus the OFFICE’s hours.) Further, because I actually try cases versus settling everything, I need to be in the office to prepare for various
court-related proceedings. I don’t covet their hours (ok, maybe an extra Saturday a month out of the office would be nice), but I would be leery of hiring an attorney who’s rarely in
the office. And while working remotely can be suitable, I believe there’s an importance to being in the office, readily available to address any type of issue that may arise
TO BE CONTINUED…
Be sure to come back next week for Part II of “Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Attorney Before Retaining One.” If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, please feel free to contact me by phone at 410-793-7040 or email at Jared@BmoreAttorney.com. Until then, take care.