We are bombarded with advertisements for attorneys. These ads are all over the televisions. We regularly hear them on the radio. They take up several pages of the phone book yellow pages. They are on billboards and the sides of buses. Since we are naturally drawn to buy things that have been advertised, it is only natural to look to ads for attorney services, too. There can be some serious pitfalls to doing so. Here are some pointers to look for in an attorney, no matter how you learn about him or her.
A lawyer is a licensed professional. This means that the attorney has skills which the rest of the public does not have, and the attorney uses these skills for the client. In other words, for the purpose of the representation, the lawyer is acting as if he or she were the client.
This brings us to one of the most important things to look for in a lawyer or a law firm. Will the lawyer allow me, the client, to have regular access to him or her? Will I even know who is assigned to my case? Have I met that person, or have I been interviewed by someone else? Will my calls be returned by the lawyer, not just by an unlicensed staff person? How long can I expect to wait until my call is returned by the lawyer? All these questions need to be asked by the potential client BEFORE the lawyer or law firm is retained.
Will the lawyer fight for me is another good question. Ask what percentage of cases the lawyer or the firm takes to litigation. Are they just a settlement mill? The insurance companies will know this and their offers will be made with that in mind. The insurance companies respect the most the lawyers and firms that will challenge them regularly. Make sure you will have this type of lawyer represent you. As a side note, it should be of interest to you to see and feel how familiar the lawyer is with the insurance company and the insurance adjuster who may already be assigned to your case.
Lawyers learn a lot in law school. They learn much more in the day to day trenches of practicing law. You need to know the experience level of the attorney who will be assigned to your case.
You will find that very few of the firms that spend a lot of money on advertisements will be able to answer these questions satisfactorily. I pride myself that I can do so. In late September of this year I will have been licensed as an attorney in Arizona for 41 years. I have exclusively represented people injured in accidents since January, 1981. Before then, I handled an increasing amount of injury claims until, In January, 1981, I was able to give up all other claims. When the phone rings in my office, I am the first person to answer. The only reason I would not do so is if I am out of the office, already on another call, or in conference.
As a final note for this blog, I want to tell you about a case that makes me proud of the way I handled it. My client was involved in an accident in June, 2009. She had been in two prior accidents, the claims for which were still pending in June, 2009. The insurance company made an initial offer of $5,000.00 and stated they would never increase that offer. We eventually filed suit and the claim was settled three days before trial for $50,000.00. This is not something that happens all the time, but if a lawyer is not willing to do the work, it will never happen.