This past Monday night after I got home from work, I decided to kick back and watch a little football. Inevitably, the game went to commercial and lo and behold, the first ad I saw was for a lawfirm. I won’t mention any names, of course, but the small firm, and there is nothing at all wrong with a small firm, was one that I have some personal knowledge of. I know that the lawyer in the ad has recently been evicted from his condo because he couldn’t make the payments; I also know that he is a young lawyer with very little experience, but here he was presenting himself on television as a successful attorney that anyone would want to have represent them.
I asked myself, how can the regular joe on the street know anything about the attorney they are hiring, that they are placing their trust in? The simple and quick answer is to ask questions… questions about experience, about training, about past client referrals… but will these questions be answered honestly? The answer, I hope, is yes. But too few times these questions are not asked at all. So often it seems that potential clients are shopping for an attorney based solely on price. This is not a good idea at all. If an attorney is willing to reduce their fees, just for you, what does that tell you about their practice? I am not suggesting that you pay exorbitant fees, or that more expensive lawyers are better, but I am suggesting that there is a standard fee in the community, and an attorney who is significantly below that standard is probably in dire need of business, and perhaps not your best option for representation.
If you are facing difficult issues like criminal charges, a pending divorce or child custody issue, or you have been injured… you need to find a good lawyer to help you out, one who knows what to do, one who can mentor you and shepherd you through the legal maze that is our court system. But who should you trust? Like so many things these days, the answer is: caveat emptor, or buyer beware. It is up to you, the client, to ask the important questions… maybe not the best answer, but it is the right one. A television ad is not evidence that an attorney knows the law, or even that they are very successful or good at what they do… that much is obvious.