Years ago, Bobby Knight went on a hilarious rant about whether or not one of his players had their game face on. He facetiously asked what a game face looked like and proceeded to contort his own cranium in many different ways. Love him or hate him, it was hilarious.
I used to feel the same was as Coach Knight when someone would call me looking for a “hungry lawyer.” Were they looking for someone who could win a wing eating contest? Did they want a law firm from a 3rd world country? In general my feeling was what is the point? Either your attorney is good or not and either they fight for you or not.
My old feelings are still somewhat true, but as I’ve evolved I’ve also discovered that when hiring a lawyer, their so called hunger is important as well.
What I mean by that is that if you hang out at the Daley Center or any of the suburban courthouses, you will see a lot of mostly middle aged, white men who hate their professional life. They aren’t really qualified to do anything else and make way too much money to think about starting a new career. That or they don’t have the balls to do it. Basically they are riding out the professional wave until their kids are done with college and they can spend ½ their time in Florida. Others went through divorces and need to work, but after 30+ years of doing the same thing are burned out. Still others are going through health issues or dealing with a spouse that is.
Of course this is a very general stereotype and isn’t true of all attorneys. Some people just love arguing over child support for a client that is behind on their bill or taking the deposition of an arrogant doctor on a Wednesday night even though they have tickets to a ball game. But a ton really don’t like what they are doing and unless there is a big payoff on a case like a large personal injury claim (which will get them closer to retirement), it seems many just aren’t in to you if you are the client.
On the flip side, while not every younger (e.g. 10-20 years of experience) lawyer is whistling Dixie on the way to work, I do find that these are the attorneys that are trying to make things happen. Typically it’s because they have left the firm they were working for and are juiced up to run their own shop. These are the attorneys that you can for the most part reach at any time of day by e-mail or phone. These are the lawyers that will be in their office at 7 a.m. and are often found there at 7 p.m. One such lawyer I know and recommend blew me away last year when he took calls on his cell phone – while in Paris on vacation with his wife.
I still find that a lawyer’s narrow practice focus is the biggest predictor of success in a case. But it’s clearly not the only factor. A lawyer that really wants to make it on their own or has a young family to take care of or a big house is often highly motivated. So if you are looking for an attorney in Illinois and sense that the one you talked to is half way out the door, keep looking. There are plenty of others that would eat off their own arm (ok that’s too extreme) for a client.
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