When you need an attorney, you need one that you can trust.
What trust factors should you be looking for when choosing an attorney to represent you?
First, when looking at any advertising or are exposed to a business in any way, we subconsciously develop an attitude about a company (or in this case, a law firm or attorney) which gives us a feeling about whether we’d have a good experience with them.
That’s the first thing we should listen to – will we feel good about using this attorney or law firm? If you don’t get a positive vibe from it, you should keep looking.
When you do find one that you’d like to investigate based on your research, go to their website. That attorney doesn’t have a website? If you’re in the 20 percent of people that won’t use a business because they don’t have a website, you’re obviously not alone!
Now let’s say this firm does have a website – what factors should you be looking for?
Here’s some answers for you:
- The firm should give you a free consultation and this should be clearly stated on the law firm’s website. Some firms don’t do that. The problem is you could be paying for a lawyer initial consultations time and time again before you find one that you’re comfortable with.
- The free legal consultation should be free – period. I know of one lawyer that actually wrapped the ‘free’ consultation into his fees and when the case didn’t work out because the client didn’t want to proceed after paying the initial retainer, the lawyer KEPT part of the retainer saying it was for the ‘free’ consultation! So be sure to ask, and get that in writing should you proceed with a retainer.
- Look at the housekeeping on the website – is the site clean, easily readable, and you can tell that they care about how it looks and what it says? If it looks outdated, the copyright year at the bottom is many years ago, or you get another feeling that’s not right, then move onto the next firm.
- The website should also have easy ways to contact them – if they don’t have an easily visible and clickable (for smartphones) phone number or other way to contact them, then you may wish to move on. The lawyer’s website should be easy to figure out and it should make it easy to proceed to the next step.
Schedule the Free Legal Consultation
Speaking of the next step, the next step in finding your trusted attorney in Arizona is to schedule the free legal consultation. Email them if it’s outside their business hours, or you can call their business number and leave a voicemail. Expect a return communication within a short time either after your communication with them if during business hours, or shortly after their opening hours in the morning, either from an assistant or from the attorney. Keep in mind that many attorneys are busy with court and other appointments so give them a few hours to respond if you can without it causing you any issues.
Now that you’ve established communications with the law firm you’ve found, here’s the next step and where you come in. I work with a lot of attorneys and the thing I hear the most from them is that during the initial contact in a potential client-attorney relationship, the attorney will call or email the prospective client back as soon as they can, and the person is then non-responsive. So please be a polite person and if you can’t answer the phone, please call or email them back as soon as you possibly can.
If you found someone else, great! Just do that attorney that responded to you a huge favor and return the call so you can explain you found someone else to help. That’s always greatly appreciated – – they won’t be upset because they’ll be even happier that you had the guts to call and let them know.
Here are some soft rules for the initial client-attorney consultation that you’ll want to observe:
- Dress appropriately – don’t look like a bum or you just got off the boat unless you have no choice. Remember the attorney is checking you out as well as you checking them out. Be respectful by being presentable – the appointment isn’t costing you anything so pay them back by being gracious and clean.
- Be prepared – bring your factual notes about the case, police reports, other data that you need to present in your case. It’s a great idea to start a list even before you make the appointment so you don’t forget anything – keep adding to it as you need to and be sure to bring everything with you for the appointment, including the list.
- Be FACTUAL. Don’t lie or even stretch the truth. Remember you have client-attorney privileges which prevents the attorney from saying anything that you stated in confidence to them (with one exception*). Admit fault up front, and anything else you know. You’ve probably seen court episodes on TV where the client doesn’t admit to something until it comes up in court, and then it takes the trusting attorney by surprise and blows the case. With that said, it would be a good idea to ask the lawyer if everything you say will be held in confidence so you can feel like you can speak freely. NOTE!!! *Client-attorney privilege does NOT hold true if you say you are GOING to take an action that could be harmful to yourself or to others. They have a social responsibility to report that action to the proper authorities. So keep this in mind.
- As part of your notes, you should have a list of questions to ask. Listen carefully to the answers and ask the attorney to clarify any points that you don’t understand.
- Before leaving, make sure you understand how to proceed should you wish to. The attorney should ask you if you’d like to retain them – if you feel comfortable and you liked what you heard, then go ahead and do that.
- If you’re ready to move ahead and pay the retainer, be sure you understand exactly how much you’re going to be into the case financially. Of course attorneys don’t know exactly how much time it may take to help you, or there may be a flat fee for some services such as preparing a will or other document. But make sure you have a really good idea of where you’re going to be so you can plan for the expenses.
I Can’t Afford the Retainer
If you can’t afford the retainer and the case is extremely important to you to win, like yours or someone you love’s life is on the line and this is what it’s going to take to make things better, then you need to find a way to get the money. Ask the attorney if they have a payment plan. Understand they may not start the work until the full retainer is paid 100 percent, plus you need a plan to pay any ongoing expenses. Ask friends, relatives, your boss, anyone you know for the money. Consider selling what you can to raise the funds, or take out a loan or if you own a home, a second mortgage.
Hopefully this article has really helped you make the best decision on hiring a trusted lawyer in Arizona, and also helps you be more prepared for your case. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”