Choosing the right counsel
Lawyers have an ethical obligation to their clients to provide advice in the client’s best interests. This is codified, in part, in Rule 2.1 of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule states:
In representing a client, a lawyer shall exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice. A lawyer should not be deterred from giving candid advice by the prospect that the advice will be unpalatable to the client.
So how do you choose the right lawyer to provide the counsel that you need?
Why do you need a lawyer?
This is the first question. Even if you think you can resolve a matter without a lawyer, here’s where a lawyer could help:
- Reality check – tell you what you should already know, but need to hear anyway.
- Get the facts – move beyond friend/internet searches to identify your specific legal needs.
- Know when to worry – understand whether and how this is a big deal, or not.
- The other guy has one – neutralize the situation.
Insurance companies, for example, will often tell personal injury plaintiffs that they’d rather resolve the matter before the person hires a lawyer. They will talk about how expensive a lawyer is, etc. The problem is, the insurance company has no ethical duty to a plaintiff, except it shouldn’t lie. That won’t stop some adjusters from doing it, though. The only protection an individual has is hiring counsel. Because lawyers do this work on a daily basis, they’re qualified to help you navigate the situation and ensure you’re getting the best result you can. It’s likely that a personal injury plaintiff has never had another claim before, much less one they handled successfully on their own.
Other reasons to consult and hire a lawyer include emotionally charged issues. Probate, family law, the sale of a family business with strong sentimental value—these are all reasons to retain counsel to help you separate emotion from economic reality. A lawyer has very real value in these situations.
Picking the right counsel
Talk with friends, social media contacts, and co-workers to see if they can recommend a great lawyer. If you know a lawyer who practices in a different practice area, ask for a referral. Lawyers are well connected, and may be able to refer you if your situation is outside of their specialty. And it’s always a good idea to talk with several lawyers before finalizing your decision, to compare rates or other terms of the representation contract.
In the end, the right counsel will be able to answer the following questions for you.
Do I have a legal problem? Is this type of matter something that you routinely handle? How long will this take? What outcome should I expect? How much will this cost?
Your goal in choosing the right counsel is, above all, to make sure the lawyer is qualified to handle your specific situation, and able to give you straight, concise, and understandable answers to your questions. Lawyers appreciate clients who ask questions, and who listen to advice and ultimately act on it. The attorney-client relationship works best when both sides are fulfilling their respective duties in the relationship, and for the client it starts here, with choosing the right counsel.
If you have any questions about opinions or advice that you’ve received, or how to pick from among several seemingly qualified lawyers, we’re happy to talk it over with you. And for you lawyers, we’re happy to help you plan your answers and marketing strategy to best present your practice to potential clients in answering the above questions. Feel free to contact us.