Here is some free advice: When you, or someone close to you, is in serious trouble, legally speaking, hire a great attorney. This seems pretty straightforward, but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Hiring a great lawyer is different from hiring a good lawyer, or a lawyer who advertises on the nightly news, or a lawyer with inexpensive billing rates. Great lawyers, generally speaking, are expensive, but in my opinion, they are usually worth the money. All of Magnus’ clients are lawyers. We have had the privilege of working with some of the most famous lawyers in the U.S.A., on some of the most high profile cases that have ever gone to trial. The majority of our clients are not only great attorneys, they are at the pinnacle of their career and the legal profession. When we have worked with attorneys who do not fit the profile of our typical client, due to their less than stellar abilities, they “stick out like a sore thumb” (as my late Mother would say) in the minds of everyone at Magnus. Fortunately, these types of clients are rare, in our experience. We had one of these less than great attorneys as a client not long ago. We were retained by a large corporation on behalf of its owner to assist in a serious case. The company’s attorney was displeased that he had not been allowed to work with the trial consulting company of his choice and, from the outset of our working relationship, he let everyone involved in the case know about his displeasure. He undermined his client’s case in the following ways: (1) he informed me that he would never listen to my advice regarding the proper research methodology and instead, would conduct the mock trials however he pleased; (2) he refused to read the extensive report that we prepared for him following the research, thus, he never knew our recommendations for improving his trial strategy; (3) he refused to speak with me about the report, the trial, or anything else; (4) he vehemently refused to retain me to help with jury selection, despite his client’s desire to do so; and (5) he refused to retain someone to conduct background and social media searches of the prospective jurors. Why? Because he never intended to try the case in the first place. Instead, this attorney was merely going through the motions, pretending to have his client’s best interests in mind, when all he was really doing was billing by the hour until the last minute, when, on the courthouse steps, he planned to convince his client to settle the case. His motive for behaving in this manner was, of course, his knowledge that he is incapable of going to court, presenting his client’s case in a trial, and most important, obtaining a favorable outcome for his client via a jury verdict. Clients who are represented by this type of attorney never know what would have happened if only they had hired a great attorney. When this happens, justice is not served.
Hiring an expert, a professional of any sort, has a degree of risk. For finding and hiring plumbers and air conditioning businesses, there are resources like Yelp and Angi (formerly known as Angie’s List). For lawyers, doctors, and trial consultants, these resources, including review based processes, are limited, or non-existent. In the case of hiring a lawyer, vetting a lawyer with questions in advance is critical. But what questions should be asked? I look at law firm websites all the time and I find it interesting to notice some focus on the qualifications of a lawyer instead of what the lawyers do for their clients. I know too that money drives some client relationships. How big one’s case is makes a difference, whether it should or not. Having hired lawyers a few times myself, I’ll admit some of those engagements have been less satisfying than others – even though Melissa and I know lawyers well from working with them for over 30 years. The hiring decision is not a decision to be taken lightly. I have little information on the process by which the lawyer Melissa mentioned was hired. And, I know lawyers work with the facts (constraints) of the case – warts and all. But, when a client has the resources (money) and wants to spend these resources on expertise, but the lawyer fails to avail himself of that expertise, I do not understand why. Fortunately it is rare. This blog is about hiring a great attorney; so some of the things that come to mind are asking for referrals; preparing a list of, and asking, questions of the attorney about what level of attention your case will receive; who will work on your case; what are the procedures and time frame? what resources will be used; and how will you as the client, be kept “in the loop”. Be comfortable with your decision – there are plenty of lawyers out there. Lawyers cannot promise results – that is understood and the result achieved by one lawyer as opposed to another is impossible to know. But there is more to the engagement to be considered. Believing that the lawyer has your interests at heart is an important component of client satisfaction.