What to Look for in a Lawyer
When searching for a lawyer, there are a few things you can research to determine their suitability for your case.
- Search for their license status on the State Bar of Texas website. This search engine can help you find a qualified lawyer by area of law, location, education/certification, languages spoken, and/or fee options. You can choose the criteria that best suits your needs.
- Search for reviews on Google or Yelp. Just like anything else, it can be helpful to see what other people in your area have said about your prospective lawyer.
- Check out the lawyer’s own webpage. You may note things like accolades, publications, and testimonials that might help your decision.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, the next step is to request a consultation. Most lawyers will offer you a free one, which is a good sign that they are honest and will work with you fairly. You will not get legal advice from them in this meeting, but you can ask about their expertise and get to know them a bit, helping you determine whether or not they will be able to help you.
What to avoid
Just because it says “Esquire” behind someone’s name does not mean they are Bar certified. Be wary of lawyers you don’t know who contact you out of the blue; they may not be fully certified or are just “ambulance chasers.” These are some other signs that a lawyer might not be very professional:
- Bad communication practices. If you are constantly chasing down your lawyer to get answers about your case, you should probably find someone else. While lawyers can be very busy, they should be able to respond to you within a reasonable amount of time to answer your questions. A good rule of thumb is to expect responses within 24-48 hours.
- Unclear billing practices. An honest lawyer will be clear about the costs of handling your case. While there may be some changes as you proceed with your case due to court fees or other factors, a good lawyer will let you know when you sign your contract about these charges and will be consistent with their own fees.
- Disrespect. For most people who seek a lawyer, it is the one and only time in their lives that they need one. You might be scared or feeling overwhelmed. It is important that a lawyer respects you and is compassionate in how they explain your legal options.
How to be a good client
Now that you have found yourself an excellent lawyer, make sure you follow these tips for being a good client. Working with a lawyer is about building a working relationship so that you get the outcome you deserve.
- Keep clear records. The better documentation you have on your case, the clearer the course of action becomes for your lawyer. Make sure that you keep organized records of anything that might apply to your case.
- Communicate. Reach out to your lawyer with questions and communicate any new information, as needed. However, also be respectful of their time. Try to collect questions and send an email or call with all relevant information at once, rather than several emails over a few days.
- Be on time. If you set up an appointment with your lawyer, make sure you are on time. If you have to cancel, try to give 24 hours notice. It is even more imperative that you are early to court hearings. Make sure you know where to go within the courthouse, so you are not late to the hearing.
- Pay on time. Lawyers have a job to do and bills to pay. Once you’ve made a payment arrangement, it needs to be honored. If there are extenuating circumstances, then communicate those up front to make another payment plan.
In the end, a lawyer-client relationship is based on mutual respect and trust. Do your homework when looking for a lawyer, and be respectful and communicate. Most lawyers love serving their clients and their community; however, it is always good to be aware of what to look for and what to avoid.