One of the remarkable aspects of law, somewhat unlike medicine where insurance requirements often dictates medical care providers, is the ability to choose your legal counsel of choice. Selecting competent counsel in your legal area is but a starting point.
There are many other variables that might merit consideration. Why? Most often, a legal matter involves an actual present or future potential conflict. This can have profound financial consequences (such as for a business client) to the loss of liberty (for a criminal client). Thus, prevailing, or failing to do so, should be backstopped by a confidence in legal counsel.
At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., we believe there are 5 universal characteristics of a good attorney-client match-up. Do these apply to you? Please consider them in making your choice of your legal advocate or team:
Complexity of the Case.
A critical component in obtaining value for your legal dollar and budget is matching a lawyer and firm relevant to your need. As you do not need a brain surgeon to sew up a simple cut, you probably do not need a mega-firm with an international presence to handle drafting a will.
On the other hand, a small town attorney may not be able to handle corporate compliance as a business grows and crosses state boundaries (or international ones). At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. we believe the lynchpin is to have counsel who knows his or her skill sets, is able to identify issues beyond it, and thereupon steer the client to a more appropriate legal advocate.
Playing “Devil’s Advocate.”
No one, individual or company wants to be questioned or criticized, particularly by his or her own counsel. Nevertheless, this is exactly what a good advocate does. With any proposed legal course your counsel typically understands the desired legal course and outcome.
However, in most situations, even the best laid legal plan has foreseeable (and unforeseeable) permutations. A good advocate should sort these out, be critical, and ask “what if.” In other words, what you are paying a skilled lawyer to do is disagree and challenge a course of action before it is executed to make sure the downside potential is worth the risk.
No Winners in Litigation.
Where litigation is brought, a healthy attorney-client relationship is premised upon a client realizing these proceedings are conflict-based, and a good or mediocre outcome is measured in terms of obtaining a “less” bad result. Why? For the most part, each side pays their own legal fees, and even if fees are recovered, an appeal may ensue, and years pass before any payment is received.
Agreeing to Disagree (and Moving On).
All relationships ebb and flow, and if you do not have a disagreement or question your lawyer from time to time, your relationship may not be a strong one. The key is “fighting” through disagreements to maintain a long-term attorney-client relationship for consistency to obtain the desired legal outcome or exhaust the possibilities.
And at the end of the disagreement, stay the course (something you should decide when you hire him or her). This is not typically a flaw in the relationship, but the mechanism that fleshes out the law and facts (it is called the Socratic Method in law school from the ancient Greeks).
In some regard, the all these key elements are based on a fundamental trust in your advocate. Without this, the representation falls short in two common ways. First, you should be confident enough to share your inter-most secrets and fears. Everyone has something unsaid that is expected to remain that way.
However, litigation has a way of reaching into unwritten agreements to not disclose certain things, such as sexuality, illegal acts, drug use, or criminal act; and then disclose the act or omission. There is probably nothing you can say that your counsel has not heard many times before, and failure to let you lawyer know this is a recipe for disaster–he or she will hear it for the first time in court or from opposing counsel, limiting damage control.
Second, the trust in your counsel must be strong enough that in times where the objective seems distant, and everyone is offering a story of what his or her attorney accomplished in another case, you do not listen to this. Reliance on other people’s opinions is detrimental to most every case.
Placing your legal issue–sometimes your–fate into the hands of an attorney is as much a burden for clients as it is for most attorneys (and judges). Like you, we spend nights tossing and turning in our sleep thinking through your problem and solutions and those of many other clients.
At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. we hope you find and use these benchmarks in your attorney-client relationship. We are available to consult with you or represent you within our practice areas.