Chapter Seven: The Last Attorney on Earth

You don’t owe me anything but I would appreciate it if you would do me a favor: Before you sign the retainer agreement, write a check or hire an attorney, remind yourself that the person you are considering hiring is not the last attorney on earth. It is important to realize at the time you make a decision that you have a choice, that there are other options and that your decision is not being fueled by desperation. How do you know if this shoe would fit your foot? You may be acting out of desperation if against your better judgment you are considering hiring one of the following attorneys:

An Attorney Who Is Distracted: The attorney that’s right for you will make you feel like you are the only client he or she has. And he or she will do this by giving you his or her undivided attention whenever you are meeting or speaking with him or her. If he or she is unable to convince you of this during your initial consultation when most attorneys will be putting his or her best foot forward, it is highly unlikely that he or she will become more focused with time. Here are some signs that the attorney is distracted and “just not that into you”:

1. He does most of the talking during the initial interview.
2. She interrupts you while you are talking.
3. He doesn’t appear to be listening to you.
4. She doesn’t answer your questions.
5. He keeps looking at his watch.
6. She keeps using her cell phone.
7. He doesn’t ask you questions that you expect to be asked.
8. She appears to be in a hurry.
9. He didn’t meet at your appointed time.
10. She doesn’t seem to know what she is talking about.

An Attorney You Don’t Like: After twenty years in the practice, I am still blown away by the number of people who come into my office seeking help in getting a divorce who tell me that they knew when they were standing at the altar they should not have gotten married. Why do so many people do this? I think it is because they want to believe that the thing they don’t like about their fiancé will go away once they say “I do.” Unfortunately, the opposite is more likely to happen. What you don’t like about your boyfriend or girlfriend gets worse once they become your husband or wife. If you are sitting across from an attorney and there is a voice in your head telling you that it is not a good idea to hire him or her because there is something about them that rubs you the wrong way, listen to it. It does not matter what the attorney has going for them, it makes no sense to retain someone you don’t like. There is a good chance you will like them less with time, not more.

More Attorney Than You Need: When O.J. Simpson was charged with murder, he hired the dream team of attorneys that included the late Johnny Cochran and Barry Sweitzer among other legal heavy weights. O.J. needed the dream team for several reasons. First, he was a black man accused of killing his white wife. And the husband is always the first person to whom the police look, and unfortunately, it’s often the case that when it is a black husband it is the last place they look. Second, the prosecution had a truckload of evidence against O.J. And last, but certainly not least, there is a high probability that he committed the crime. The legal dream team was the only thing that stood between O.J. and life in prison.

If the challenge you face is as daunting as the one O.J. confronted then it makes perfect sense for you to hire the best attorney or attorneys your money can buy. Only a reckless fool would do otherwise. However, unless you have deep pockets, it does not make sense to hire a member of the dream team to handle your simple uncontested divorce. Hiring more attorney than you need and can comfortably afford is a decision you will soon regret.

An Attorney Who Bad-mouths Other Attorneys: There are not enough hours in the day for me to list the reasons why I don’t like a woman who I shall refer to as “Attorney X. Let me just say she embodies every negative stereotype that plagues our profession. But beyond that she is bitter, rude and extremely hard to deal with. I would not trust her any further than I could pick her up and throw her. That’s why a few years ago I stopped accepting cases in which she was the opposing counsel. I believe peace is a pearl of a great price and she gets on my last nerve.

But here’s the thing I dislike most about her: she is constantly bad-mouthing other attorneys. And surprise, surprise, every negative thing I have heard her say about another attorney is also true about her. Although I have been tempted to do so I have never said an unkind word about her to any of our colleagues. The reason you should not hire an attorney who bad-mouths other attorneys is the same reason I never bad-mouthed her. It is impossible to sling mud without getting muddy. And only pigs like playing in dirt and mud.

An Attorney Who Can Only Speak Legalese: You don’t need an attorney who does not, cannot or will not speak “plain” English or the same language you speak. If you had a law degree, you would not need to hire an attorney to represent you. That is why your lawyer needs to be able to explain your case so you can understand what the relevant law is and how the law applies to the facts of your case. Your lawyer also needs to explain his or her legal strategy in way that makes sense to you. If your attorney can’t help you understand their strategy, how will they be able to make a judge or jury understand?

Why would an attorney resist speaking your language? Lots of reasons, and none of them are acceptable. Arrogance tops the list. Some lawyers believe that they are smarter than people (and that includes their clients) who do not have law degrees. You do not need an attorney who questions your intelligence. If you don’t understand what your lawyer is saying it is not your fault. It is your attorney’s job to make himself or herself understood.

Your attorney needs to speak your language, because communication is the key to any successful relationship. The attorney client relationship is no exception. In fact, according to a report by the American Bar Association, the majority of disputes between attorney and clients are the result of poor communication. You can’t communicate with someone you don’t understand. And you are far less likely to ask the questions you need to stay on top of your case if you don’t feel your attorney will respond in a way that is helpful. Since asking questions is the only way to ensure your attorney is doing what he or she promised he or she would do when you hired them, make sure you hire someone that speaks your language.

This is an excerpt from Who Not to Hire Download a copy below:
Who Not to Hire

Photo Credit: Visual Hunt

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