Choosing an attorney to represent you in any matter can be a very daunting task. For one, you, the consumer, are in a position where you already need a lawyer. There are few areas of law where engaging in the legal process is a win-win situation, so there is inherently a level of risk involved in the process. Unless you are a professional skydiver, risk means anxiety.
Among the many factors that go into choosing a lawyer (such as billable rate, pricing structure, proximity, experience, and reputation), the most important question is “Do I trust this person?”
You should have a few references and a list of questions to ask attorneys before deciding to hire one. Your questions should weed out many of the attorneys that do not line up with your ideal lawyer (i.e., too expensive, too far away, doesn’t use text messaging, etc.). However, if you don’t trust your attorney, you will not have a successful experience, even if they meet all your other requirements.
Why You Need to Trust Your Attorney
There is a stark difference between withholding facts and not knowing which facts are relevant. As part of the lawyer’s expertise, she will ask you questions in the initial intake and follow-up conversations about the case. If you are asked a question and you decide not to answer the question completely or truthfully, that is withholding facts. However, the lawyer is generally responsible for asking the right questions to obtain the relevant information. The bottom line is: trying to outsmart your lawyer is only taking bullets out of your own chamber.
There is a simple division of labor between attorney and client: the attorney is the expert in the law, court procedure, and the like; while you are the expert in the facts and what it is you want. The client controls the outcome, the lawyer directs and controls the means of obtaining the outcome. The law is a stagnant collection of words without facts to apply it to, and so it is important you trust your attorney enough to divulge as much of the truth to her as you can.
Working with a Litigation Attorney
As a client you need to tell your attorney all the relevant facts about your case, both good and bad, for a number of reasons:
- Your attorney cannot accurately give you an assessment of your chances for success if she does not know the entire picture. You can avoid wasting time and money if there are facts that cut right to the core of the case. If they are favorable, your attorney may be able to expedite the litigation through motion practice or leverage certain facts in negotiation. Likewise, if there are unfavorable facts, then she can advise you on how to mitigate your exposure.
- No case is a “perfect case”. A competent attorney anticipates that there are weaknesses to every case, and may be able to massage a set of unfavorable facts into a lens that is favorable to your case. If you hide those components of the story from your lawyer, it can backfire horribly. Backfire typically shows up in the form of the opposition revealing the concealed facts at a crucial point in the litigation, or your lawyer may miss the opportunity to use those facts to strengthen your case. Where your attorney cannot massage the facts, it is often still better to get in front of the issues that are in your way, rather than have the other side bring these issues up to the judge or jury because you and your lawyer will look like you are hiding things. Deception is not a good trait to portray to a judge or a room full of jurors.
Working with a Contract Attorney
In the world of transactional law, the facts give context to what you are trying to accomplish. The intention of the drafter is almost always the focus of what the instrument is trying to communicate. If you don’t trust your lawyer enough to divulge the intimate details of why you are there and what your goals are, then the document, whether it be a trust, will, or contract, may miss the mark. In some cases, your intent can be the difference in whether or not the document is even valid!
Find the Right Attorney for You
Hiring an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable is incredibly important. Fortunately, requirements such as graduating law school (in most states) and passing the bar exam provide a minimum threshold of competency to enter the legal profession. However, the lawyer who knows the most is not necessarily the lawyer best equipped to succeed. For example, sometimes effective representation requires a lawyer who will focus more attention on building relationships with the people and stakeholders involved in the case, more than it requires a memorized knowledge of the law. Moreover, depending on the complexity of the matter and the value of the case, seeking the most knowledgeable and experienced lawyer may yield diminishing returns. If finding someone you can trust leads your search for a lawyer, then you will be much better equipped to have a satisfying experience in your representation once you have finished screening for the capability that suits you.
If you are looking for an attorney who will represent you, but only after you’ve given the good, the bad, and the ugly about your case, then Cunningham Lopez LLP has the perfect lawyers for you. Reach out now so we can start representing your interests.