It’s hard to know whether you’re talking to an attorney who is good at what they do. If you’re not an attorney, how are you supposed to evaluate their competency? There are things to look for, things to ask and signs that they might not be the right attorney for you. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open. I usually tell people if they don’t pass the smell test, move on.
Some things to ask yourself:
- Are they too eager? Willingness to help you is one thing, but if they seem just overjoyed that you’re going to hire them, perhaps they don’t get many clients. The opposite isn’t good either. If they’re not listening, or checking email while you’re talking, they might lack the dedication you’re looking for.
- Are they too slick? Are they giving you a bunch of B.S.? Does it sound too good to be true? If it seems like they’re hiding something, it might be that they’re hiding incompetency.
- Are they avoiding your questions? If you ask a specific question and your attorney tells you that they need to do some research and get back to you, that’s ok. But if it’s something simple, or they seem to be tiptoeing around the fact that they don’t know the answer, it could be a bad sign. If you ask them to tell you about similar cases they’ve handled in the past, it should be an easy question to answer.
- Do they actually smell? I remember going to a deposition once where one of the other attorneys was so gross, I can’t believe anyone would ever hire him. If an attorney can’t take care of themselves, I wouldn’t trust them to take care of your case.
- Are they being too vague? If they’re being vague about their experience, past success or how long they’ve been handling cases (all things that you should ask about), find someone else who can be more upfront and specific.
- Do they yell at you? I can’t believe how many people put up with attorneys who yell at them. This is not normal. If it’s happening to you, you need a new attorney.
- Do they call you back? Your attorney should return your calls and emails, and in my opinion they should do so within 24 hours. These days, when communication is so instantaneous, it’s not too much to ask.
- Do they respect others? This rule was a good one back in preschool and it’s still good today. I know an attorney who thinks he’s better than everyone else, and it makes a terrible impression. He makes his secretary call him Mr. Jones (not his real name). And she has him make phone calls for him, saying “Please hold, Mr. Jones would like to speak with you” and then passing the call on to him, like he’s so important he can’t dial your number.
You don’t have to settle for an attorney who doesn’t pass the smell test. There are so many attorneys out there, including someone who will handle your case professionally and without all the B.S. The point of all this is to keep looking if you’re not satisfied.
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