The Best Way to Hire a Lawyer: How It Feels to Be a Judge

Should you wait until you’re sued to hire a lawyer? At that point, the answer is obviously yes – but what if you haven’t been sued? Do you still need a lawyer? How do you find one?

The best way to hire a lawyer is like everything else – by referral. You more than likely know someone who has been sued. Ask them if they’re satisfied with their lawyer. When you’re asking for a referral, you will want to know the answers to several questions.

Does the lawyer communicate on a frequent basis? Do you get copies of all filings and letters? Does your friend or acquaintance have the lawyer’s home telephone number? Does the lawyer promptly return telephone calls? Does the lawyer send a bill each month? Does the lawyer tell you when hearings are scheduled to allow you to attend and watch the lawyer in action?

You should check to see if your lawyer is licensed by checking your local state bar. That site will also tell you whether the attorney has a public record of discipline. Find more about your lawyer's background information.  Assuming all is well and you’re hearing the right responses to your questions, go ahead.  But first, set up an appointment for a free consultation, and do your own face-to-face evaluation.

If you’re not engaged in a lawsuit, it’s an even better time to hire a lawyer. With the right advice, you can work to avoid being sued, and spending legal fees and costs to defend yourself.

The truth is that the view from behind the bench is decidedly different than from in front of it. Sitting as a pro tem judge (which I had the opportunity to do today) presents an interesting perspective – how a judge looks at both sides of a case. There’s quite a difference than advocating one side of a case.

As a judge, you look dispassionately at both sides of the case before forming an opinion about the possible outcome. As a lawyer, advocating one position requires you to counter and discount the other side’s argument. The judge's view is subtly different. As a judge, you have to evaluate which side is believable, which side has the more solid evidence, and what fairness dictates. You can, and must, ignore some of those things as a lawyer to advocate your client’s case.

Lawyers that can evaluate believability, evidence and fairness give their clients an edge, because they tend to look at the end result of the case. That lawyer can also give you better advice about the ultimate outcome of your case. Clients can accomplish the same thing by stepping back and listening – really listening – to the other lawyer. That’s what the judge and the jury have to do.

[thanks to matt from london and j. craig williams via cc]