Someone smart once said that “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”, and you know what – they were completely right. There are loads of chances every day that something unexpected, inconvenient, and just downright horrible will happen. Maybe someone will break into your house, maybe you will get hit by a vehicle.
When those uninvited situations come up, you will likely need some legal support, so you want to know how to choose the best possible law office to represent you. We went over to the experts at Paul M Marriett Law office and asked them for some tips on how to make such an important choice the smart way. Here is the advice they gave us:
Ask another lawyer about your new lawyer:
This may seem completely counterintuitive to you, and we get it. Who in their right mind would check up on a business entity by asking their competitors for an opinion, right? But this case is a little different, and it ties right in with the peer review point that we will cover below.
No one knows the actual skills and reputation of a lawyer better than a fellow lawyer, because chances are they were both collaborators and competitors at different points in their respective careers. Information about things like in-niche reputation, demeanor, ethical principles, level of competence, and habits regarding their practice is typically something you will never find online or in print. You need a living source of data on those points.
Do a proper background check:
This means more than just googling a name, though, mind you. What you want to do is find the Lawyer Disciplinary Agency, or the equivalent relevant body in your state or country, and inquire about the attorney you are considering. Are they a member of the bar in good standing?
This is especially important if you found your attorney via an Internet search – you have to check up on the legitimacy of their references and see how they rate in their peer reviews. You can learn more about how that works at this link. Those should give you a more objective picture of their abilities and ethics.
Consult the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory:
You can find the Directory both online and in print format law libraries, or even local public libraries. If you have never heard of this thing before, the gist of it is: it is an information service for the legal profession, available to both legal practitioners and members of the public. It provides background and practice information on law firms and individual lawyers, both in the USA and other countries from around the world (around 160 in total).
The Martindale-Hubbell Directory is so reliable, in fact, that even law firms themselves use it to scout for talents in other jurisdictions. It also includes lawyers’ and firms’ ratings based on peer reviews, to help you make a choice between equally qualified ones. To browse the Directory, just go to https://www.martindale.com/ if you prefer a screen to flipping pages.
Tour the prospective candidates’offices:
Just like a bedroom, an office space can tell you a lot about a person. If at all possible, include this step in your interview process. Typically, a lawyer will meet you in a “neutral” office or conference room – politely ask for a brief tour beyond it.
Pay attention to the presence and attitude of any support staff. Are they friendly and transparent? Is the space orderly, well-run, neat, efficient? Is the office location easily accessible? Is it local to you (either your home or workplace)?
Some major red flags to look out for are unhappy, uncooperative, or aggressive staffers, empty offices or cubicles, unreturned calls, and mail stacks, and general disarray. If you are lucky enough to encounter a cleaning person or an intern, take a good look at how the office members treat them.
Remember, everybody is nice to their boss, but people show their real faces in a position of power. Their attitude towards their “underlings” is actually a fairly accurate reflection of how they will likely behave towards you, as well as a reflection of their overall character.