Good lawyers don’t usually make headlines unless they have a high-profile case (I’ve had a few of those in my career) while bad lawyers make headlines when they don’t do their job or steal from their clients. Today’s Tampa Bay Times has a story about lawyers gone bad. It chronicles the bad history of a few local Tampa Bay lawyers who either stole from their clients, didn’t do the work for which they were paid, or most recently, set up a fellow lawyer for a DUI arrest.
The article noted the number of complaints the Florida Bar receives each year. So far, this year the Bar has received more than 4,600 complaints, not all of which are legitimate claims against lawyers. However, the story and the numbers tend to confirm the public hatred for lawyers.
I’m not going to defend lawyers or the legal profession. People have a right to their opinion. However, given the recent bad press about my profession, I thought it might be helpful to offer some advice on how to pick a good lawyer over a bad one and what are the tell-tale signs of each.
A good lawyer has usually established himself/herself in the community and is well regarded by the people who work in the courts and by the leaders in the community. A good lawyer is usually involved in community projects, trying to help out whenever and whomever possible. A good lawyer is responsive to phone calls, texts, or emails and is able to update you on the status of your case. Such a lawyer will be upfront with you, from the initial consultation to the resolution of your case, with the costs of the case, the potential outcomes, and give you the best and worst case scenarios. This lawyer won’t be the cheapest and most likely won’t be the most expensive either. He will be somewhere in the middle. I think the most important criterion for determining a good lawyer is this: can you trust him or her? Can you trust him or her with your life? If so, the law practice will enjoy repeat business and referrals.
As far as bad lawyers, take what I said above and reverse it. Those are signs of a bad lawyer.
For me, my guidelines are pretty simple. If I can say at the end of the day that my mom and my kids would be proud of what I did that day, I did my job.