THREE QUALITIES YOUR LAWYER SHOULD HAVE
21 Apr 2014 Richard R. Thomas
I have spent over thirty years as a lawyer. Clients have come to me from various places and in many different ways. Clients have a broad spectrum of expectations for lawyers, especially for their own lawyers. Many clients want “a bulldog” or a “shark with killer instincts.” Some want a lawyer who is nice and human, having none of the qualities or nicknames of aggressive animals. Some clients don’t know what they want. They only know they have a problem that needs solving.
Perhaps you have had the experience of trying to find a lawyer for the first time for something having to do with you personally. What qualities are you looking for in a lawyer? How do you know when you have found the lawyer you should hire? There are many other possible questions you can and should ask yourself before hiring a lawyer. Though there are many qualities that go into a good lawyer, here are three that your lawyer should have:
First, your lawyer should be strong minded. You don’t need a lawyer who eats nails or verbally abuses every soul he or she meets. You don’t need a lawyer who has that Hollywood flash and cache’. What you need is a lawyer who is strong minded. What does that mean? A strong minded lawyer is one who thinks clearly about his or her position, decisively and rationally chooses options, and then stands firm in the position chosen. A “pushover” lawyer is no lawyer at all. Do not misunderstand, however. There is a world of difference between a strong minded lawyer and the jerk lawyer.
Second, your lawyer must be willing to communicate with you. I am amazed to hear clients of other lawyers tell me that their lawyer never communicates with them. Aside from the ethical issues a lawyer creates by failing to communicate, a lawyer creates very practical problems in the representation if he or she fails to communicate. For one thing, the lawyer may never really know all the facts and may never have all appropriate documents. Also, the client may never really understand the nature and risks of a certain course of action the lawyer decides to take in the case. If your lawyer fails to communicate with you, I guarantee you that you will experience routine surprises in your case or matter. Some of them may be highly detrimental to your interests.
Third, you want your lawyer to be optimistically candid. Honesty with sunshine. Telling it like it is. Too often, a lawyer tells her client what the client wants to hear and withholds the lawyer’s true opinion about how she feels about a certain relevant topic. This is, in fact, a learned behavior in some lawyers, having had to deal with negative reactions from clients when they are told the lawyer’s true opinion about a particular issue. Passive aggressive lawyers (“PALs”) are maddening. You never really understand what they think or what their advice is. Avoid the PAL. Find the plain talking, risk assessing, optimistic lawyer. Also, understand that good lawyers seek to understand the client’s risks, assess the danger of those risks, communicate them to the client, and then move ahead decisively with a plan of action once the client makes the decision based upon those now known risks. These lawyers are the problem solvers. You want your lawyer giving you her candid opinion about a course of action. Granted, you don’t want a lawyer who does nothing but dwell on the negative. You don’t want a lawyer who fearfully runs away from risk. (See “strong minded” discussion above.) You don’t want a lawyer who is so afraid of your bad reaction that he never tells you the problems in your case. You want a plain talking, optimistic, problem solving lawyer.
Many qualities go into a good lawyer. These are three that I prize highly and seek to have in my life and practice. If you are in the difficult position of having to choose a lawyer, if possible, take your time. Study and assess your options.
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