(Part I of a Series on Hiring An Attorney - What to Look For)
When you hire an attorney, you hire years of education, experience and also, personality. Of the three aspects of an attorney that you hire, experience is a must. Experience suggests a familiarity with the way things are done. This familiarity breeds competence, which in turn breeds confidence. Confidence is a personality trait so it should be clear that these three aspects of an attorney are in fact, interrelated.
Education is a given assuming the attorney passed their state's respective bar exam. But education or the fact one is a licensed attorney means little if the attorney does not have a personality. Unfortunately, personality is the aspect that gets the least amount of fanfare in the assessment of an attorney. Usually though, and very fortunately, clients instinctively quickly get a feel for the personality of their attorney in the free consultation.
Is the attorney attentive? Is the attorney smart? Is the attorney organized? While all of these traits are very important, the more nuanced personality traits can sometimes be forgotten to be examined. The importance of retaining an attorney that is both aggressive on behalf of the client's interest but is also open to reasonable settlement offers cannot be understated and that is the focus of this short article today.
Attorneys are advocates, schooled in fighting on behalf of someone else within a system of labyrinthine laws, protocols and procedures that would be daunting to anyone not familiar with the lay of the land. From drafting complaints and serving your adversary, to opening negotiations, and assuming they fail, preparing for mid-litigation motions (like motions for summary judgment), settlement talks, or even a jury trial, your attorney's personality comes into play early on, and often.
I am reminded of the saying that information leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to wisdom, and wisdom leads to foresight, but information alone does not guarantee that one will achieve knowledge, wisdom or foresight. No where is this more true with the way an attorney plans to handle your case. Your attorney may understand the weaknesses in your case, and know when to strategically settle if that is what needs to be done.
Typically, when clients shop for attorneys, they have aggression in mind as the most important quality. While aggression is important, far more important is determination, persistence and the ability to see the big picture. An attorney who is cordial with the other side, yet can advocate your position by hammering away on the other side's weaknesses, while minimizing your own, will do wonders more than an attorney who blusters and bangs on the war drums, only to be casually eliminated or tossed aside in court, where the arguments matter, when the judge or jury shut him or her down.
So far, we've seen that confidence, persistence and the ability to see the big picture are large parts of the attorney personality equation. How does this figure into more nuanced studies on personality of your attorney and how it affects your case? Consider the following: You are involved in a litigation where you are defending a lawsuit as a business owner. The other side is adamant, has filed and served its complaint, and desires to take this matter to jury at all costs.
You may be confident as a business owner that you engaged in no wrong. So you mount a vigorous, and costly defense. You know that there are no statutory grounds for attorney fees if you win. You know that there exists enough good faith and probable cause that you can't sue for malicious prosecution or abuse of process should you win on the merits, after a costly motion for summary judgment or jury trial.
I've sued the largest banks in the nation for vast sums of damages, sometimes in the millions. Even if the other side was adamant that they were in the right, counsel for the banks would sometimes offer $500 for me to dismiss the complaint. Even if this was an insult for my clients who were homeowners who were mistreated for years by poor mortgage banking procedures, there was a take-away. That takeaway was that there was a willingness to settle that I could not ignore, no matter how small the price was. I would take that small settlement offer and use it as a stepping stone for much larger settlements, many times in the tens of thousands, or for an entirely different settlement.
Had I been the aggressive attorney, with bluster, I would have cost my clients much of their hard earned money, by likewise becoming insulted, and shutting down talks, only to be met in court by a judge or jury who maybe simply didn't see it the way my client and I did. So sometimes, the victory comes early, by settling, either as a defendant or a plaintiff - because it signifies a willingness to be reasonable, and reasonable people can always agree to get along and come up with a creative solution.
That would be another important personality trait to be on the lookout for when hiring an attorney, that of creativity.
Other articles will look at the importance of your attorney checking local rules of the court in which your matter appears, the importance of retaining an attorney a reasonable amount of time before the hearing instead of waiting until the last minute, and finally, the hazards of using a low priced "budget" attorney that quotes a low price, then ends up costing you more.
So how do you test for persistence, determination, ability to see the lay of the land and creativity? Simple. Schedule a free consultation today.
Call (800) 691-2721 and let's talk about your options.