Good Lawyer Qualities: What Are They?

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Before you start reading, keep in mind that this blog is useful not just for laypeople looking for a lawyer, but also for lawyers wishing to enhance their skills. So, if you’re a lawyer, keep reading because you’ll learn some useful advice from a Houston-based judge. I’ll start by offering advice to lawyers that I learned from the judge in question, and then I’ll go over my own recommendations for folks trying to figure out what makes a successful lawyer. As a person seeking for a lawyer, you should study the advice offered to lawyers carefully and look for those attributes when deciding who to hire.

I understand how tough it can be to choose a lawyer. On the one hand, you’re probably already in a difficult scenario. Dealing with any legal matter, whether it’s a divorce or custody case (which is usually the most stressful and emotional situation), defending criminal charges brought against you, or even a civil matter because you believe someone has wrongfully violated your rights, is not a fun experience, to say the least. On the other hand, there are additional factors to consider, such as:

How much will this set you back? Who would be the best lawyer for me? Will I be able to succeed? How long do you think it’ll take? Will this have an impact on my job? Will it have an impact on my quality of life? Will I be able to spend more time with my family as a result of this? And so forth.

Those are reasonable concerns, and believe me when I say you aren’t the only one who has them. Even I, an experienced attorney who does this for a job, have had similar fears as you when dealing with a few legal problems. And yes, I spent a big amount of money, perhaps a year’s salary for an engineer, if not more, and I spent a significant amount of time on them, a few years. Choosing a san diego bankruptcy lawyer differs from choosing any other profession. You can usually check out a person’s track record of success in most professions, but in the legal field, “success” is too subjective and difficult to evaluate.

So if I have the opportunity to assist clients in finding the correct lawyer in any way, I try to do so as soon as possible. I recently came upon a post by Judge Michael Newman, one of Houston’s more qualified judges, about his personal advice to lawyers on how to avoid ruining a case. So I decided to share it with you and add to it by offering my own advice on how to select the perfect lawyer and what to look for when choosing one. In numerical sequence, here’s what Judge Newman had to say: (At the conclusion, I’ll list my personal recommendations in alphabetical order.)

1) Be aware of your situation. (You’d be shocked how often lawyers don’t even know all of the facts in their case before a hearing.)

2) Have a thorough understanding of the law, particularly civil procedure and evidence. (Being a successful lawyer isn’t about having the most expensive office/car/suit; it’s about knowing both the law and the norms of the procedure.) A lawyer will not be able to argue the law unless he or she is well-versed in the norms of procedure);

3) Be nice and professional to everyone (Contrary to popular perception, the meanest and most disrespectful lawyer will not win in court.) Even if you like your lawyer’s attacks on the other side, and it may provide you with some short respite, it will not result in a favorable outcome. It’s like putting a band-aid on a tear in your skin; it may stop the bleeding temporarily, but it won’t solve the problem);

4) Don’t deceive the judge or jury. (Usually, lawyers who have problems with tip #3 have this problem as well.) Judges that preside over cases are not foolish, believe me. They are more knowledgeable about the law than anyone else because they deal with a variety of cases on a regular basis. Don’t try to deceive them; it won’t work out.

5) Prepare your client and witnesses to testify truthfully (Shouldn’t this be evident given suggestion #4? It’s not going to end nicely once more. Be truthful. PREPARE YOUR CLIENT AS WELL. I’m still surprised how many lawyers don’t even prepare their clients for testifying after almost eight years of practice);

6) Reread #3 and be gracious, humble, kind, and sincere.

7) Prove what you say you’re going to prove (“Judge, I’m going to prove my client wasn’t even in Harris county at the time of the occurrence,” but then spends the entire trial debating whether or not the client was aware of the incident);

8) Maintain your composure and avoid being enraged (Let’s face it, dealing with a legal hearing requires a great deal of expertise and patience. How many times have you thought one side won a trial, whether it was genuine or in a TV film/series, only for the tables to be turned on you? It happens on a regular basis. Have a lawyer who can remain cool and patient in the face of adversity. That’s why you recruited them in the first place);

9) Use brief phrases and be succinct (remember, judges hear a lot of cases on a daily basis. They don’t have time to listen to you whine and complain. If you don’t get right to the subject, you’ll lose their attention).

Judge Newman is to be thanked for his suggestions. Now let’s look at some other suggestions I made when deciding what to look for when hiring a lawyer:

a) Read their reviews first and foremost, but don’t rely completely on them. We’re all aware that bogus reviews exist. Check to see if they have a large number of reviews, and that they aren’t just from a few family and friends. Check to see if they have any negative ratings as well. There will always be disgruntled people, and a lawyer who only has positive evaluations is not being truthful.

b) Call the office and see if they are kind and professional.

c) Meet with the lawyer who will handle your case and/or the firm’s managing lawyer to ensure that you are comfortable with them. Typically, a law firm is a representation of the managing attorney. So, if you get along with the managing lawyer, you should get along with the lawyer assigned to your case as well.

d) Check to see if they’re receptive. (Don’t expect them to respond to you in a timely manner.) Lawyers never have just one case to deal with; they must also deal with other persons. You don’t want a lawyer who has just handled a few cases. But as long as they respond within a reasonable amount of time, that should suffice. I had a client who refused to engage me because I called her 10 minutes beyond the free consultation time I had provided her. I was late since I had a consultation with a deaf person before that, which took longer than planned because the person needed to utilize a translator. I couldn’t just put the phone down on her. But the girl I called 10 minutes late felt it was “already a terrible indicator, thanks pal,” despite the fact that she had no idea why I had called her so late. She didn’t even give me a chance to apologize or explain myself. Fortunately, she isn’t one of my clients);

g) If you hire them, how and when will you be able to reach them? (It’s preferable to know ahead of time when and how you’ll have access to the attorney.) Are you able to text? Is it possible to contact them directly? Is it possible to contact them after hours? Weekends?);

g) How many cases do they have? (Some lawyers take any case that comes in the door and simply have too many cases to represent their clients effectively.)

g) How well-dressed are they? (Yes, you don’t want a lawyer wearing running shoes, purple pants, no tie, etc., even if it’s not the most significant thing.) They sometimes show up in court like that, and I’ve seen the judge throw them out on several occasions);

h) Do they communicate in a professional and forceful manner? (This relates to some of Judge Newman’s suggestions mentioned earlier.) Please read it again);

Do they provide a no-cost consultation? (This is a matter of personal taste.) Some lawyers want to make sure they aren’t getting calls from people who want free legal advice without ever contemplating employing them because it takes time away from the time they should be spending on more important customers. However, I feel that individuals should be entitled to do a free interview before selecting an attorney; it is a significant expenditure.)

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