Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to select, hire and manage an attorney (Part I)

October 21, 8:15 PM Seattle Pet Laws Examiner / Jean-Pierre Ruiz

People have few opportunities to learn how to select, hire, and monitor an attorney. In fact, unless you own your own business or are involved in criminal activities (admittedly these days they seem to go together), you are most likely to go through life without ever having to deal with an attorney, or seeing the inside of a courtroom. If you do retain an attorney, perhaps to draft a will or review a real estate contract, you are unlikely to do it more than once.

This first part of this multi-part article is meant to give some insight on how to select an attorney who will be most helpful in your case.

Not all lawyers are born, or made equal. Even the student who graduated last from the “worst” law school still gets to “practice” law and is not always (in fact, frequently) a "bad" lawyer. What defines a "good" lawyer is the passion for the law, and the desire and ethics to work hard. So selecting a student who graduated first from the most prestigious law school is also no guarantee that, in practice, s/he will be a “good” attorney, or a good attorney for your case. Every day, tens of attorneys get disciplined for malpractice. Some of those graduated at the top of their class.

So how do you pick an attorney who will best represent you? Who will care the most about you? Usually, we turn to friends and acquaintances for references. Their “recommendations” are usually based on some vague and subjective criteria. The process to select an attorney should be based on solid, objective criteria, regardless of the issues at hand.

1. Do you really need an attorney?

Well, it depends on what the issue is. Whether you are suing someone or you are being sued, remember that you always have the right to represent yourself in and out of court. Although this is usually not a good idea, sometimes it is unavoidable. For example, most states do not allow attorneys or even paralegals in small claim court proceedings. Sometimes, this is also preferable in traffic court. However, in most instances, you will need to retain an attorney to best represent your interest and defend your rights.
An important reason to retain an attorney is that, if you represent yourself, the judge will hold you to the same standard as if you were an attorney. Hence, the judge will expect you to file appropriate pleadings, briefs and motions; to properly refer to case law ; to know the rules of procedure and evidence; and a myriad of other knowledge an attorney acquires during law school and subsequent practice. In the long run, if you retain the appropriate attorney and properly monitor your case, you will save yourself money, time and embarrassment.

In Part II of this multi-part article, we'll learn how to "shop" for an attorney.

Click on title above to go there;

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