How do I know if I have a claim or not?
Thanks to the internet, you can learn a lot on your own. But in the end, you learn about your legal position the same way you find out why you’re sick, or why you’re car isn’t working, . . . you ask the expert.
But the legal expert you consult should be more than just an expert in facts and laws: he or she must also know about people and life and business so that he or she can advise about the other things that matter in deciding whether to go forward. I regularly send people away even though the facts and law support their position. Why? Because sometimes it just isn’t cost-effective to go forward. Maybe the fees and costs will be more than the matter is worth. Sometimes, the client’s personal situation or health make it apparent that litigation is not wise. These determinations require the eye of an experienced litigator.
Remember that you can consult with an attorney without committing. Sometimes, it is wise to sit on it for a while, but get all the key considerations first so that your deliberations take you somewhere.
Isn’t a consultation just a way of pressuring me into hiring you?
Lawyers are businesspeople, just like your local retailers. They need to attract business. Why that is unsavory when a lawyer does it as opposed to a banker or mechanic, I don’t know. Are there lawyers who try to hustle you? Sure, just like in any profession. How do you protect yourself? The same way you would with any business. Ask for the names of past clients. But in the end, you’re probably going to have to make an intuitive assessment of the lawyer you meet with, just like you would in any interaction.
I don’t pressure people to sign with me. For a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s bad business. If I offend people, they’re going to tell others. Also, an attorney-client relationship is not like buying a jacket, where neither the salesperson nor the customer ever has to relate to the other again. The attorney-client relationship usually lasts for quite a while and can be pretty intimate. Why would anyone want to enter a lengthy, relationship with someone who does not really want to be there? Finally, I want to enjoy my work. That means working with people who want to be with me. If I trick the wrong person into hiring me, I’m not going to enjoy the relationship.
What’s the rush? I can always come in and see a lawyer later, right?
Sometimes, yes; sometimes, not. If you’re being sued, you only have so much time to respond, and you clearly don’t have the luxury of taking your time. If you’re the one who will be bringing the claim, you might be able to take your time and not lose your claim. That all depends on the statute of limitations for that claim.
But there are a couple points you might not have thought about.
First, sometimes it is a good idea to sit and think about the plunge before you take it. Litigation can be tough at every level. But I would suggest it would be a good idea to do your thinking after you have had a consultation, so that you can be thinking about the things that really matter to your decision. Otherwise, you’re just stalling.
Second, every experienced litigator can give you a list of instances where the client’s delay in getting to them made the case at least more difficult, and sometimes almost impossible to defend. A million things can happen. The other side disappears and cannot be served. Or their assets somehow disappear, and there is no way to collect on the judgment. Or key witnesses disappear, or key documents somehow get lost.
In short, sometimes there is a rush, and you probably won’t know whether that is so in your case until you talk with a good lawyer.
What’s the cost of a consultation? Why should I have to pay for a consultation?
My consultations are $200, and they usually extend for about an hour.
Why do I charge? A couple reasons.
First, a lawyer’s time, along with the knowledge, study, experience and wisdom which gets conveyed during that time, is what that lawyer sells. Lawyers do not like to work for free any more than other businesspeople. Besides, the people who come to me for consultations always get advice worth much more than what they pay. In the last 5 years, I can only think of one person who went away angry after one of my consultations, and he came in angry.
Second, frankly, the consultation is not just about you deciding whether you want to hire me. It is also about whether I want to represent you. I have learned that it is wasteful and frustrating to try to represent a client who is not committed. And an individual who cannot justify paying $200 for a consultation is certainly not going to be able to sustain a litigation. Tire-kickers make bad clients. . . . and unhappy clients. Who wants that?
How do I determine how much my case is worth?
Bottom line . . . litigation is almost always expensive, not just financially but emotionally, physically and spiritually.
No lawyer can give you an exact answer to the question as to how much the litigation will cost, unless it is in one of those areas where all matters follow a predictable route. Maybe bankruptcy, or misdemeanor crimes. And you should walk out on any lawyer outside those fields who tries to give you an exact quote. There are just too many factors outside your attorney’s control, led by the fact that the litigation will be more or less expensive depending on how aggressively the other side fights. And whether they settle or force you to go all the way to trial.
What I can say is that every experienced lawyer will make all reasonable efforts to resolve the matter before even getting to litigation. And once in litigation, that lawyer will make every effort to find a resolution quicker rather than later. But you should know that, often, the best way to get the other side to consider resolving the matter is by litigating aggressively enough so that they know you are willing to go all the way. So don’t hire a litigator to get you the best result and then tie his hands in order to save a few dollars.
At my consultations, I make an effort to estimate what the costs might be. But every case is different, at least in the areas I practice in. I promise not to understate the costs in an effort to lure you in.
How long is this going to take?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is much like the answer to the last question. For the same reason . . . namely, there are so many variables out of the lawyer’s control, headed by the fact that you cannot make someone – for instance, your opponent – do what they don’t want to do.
In most instances, I will begin the representation by contacting the other side in an effort to convince them that compromise is far more desirable than litigating. Occasionally, that works. If you decide to go to litigation, I will be watching always for a chance to end the matter early. For instance, I favor mediation because a good mediator can help both sides see where their case is not quite as strong as they thought and maybe they should think about compromise. And mediation is not binding.
If litigation continues, I will always look for the opening in the other side’s case where perhaps I can bring the matter to a quick end.
But some cases simply cannot be resolved short of trial. When that happens, this firm, unlike many others, jumps in eagerly. The key to success is often the client’s resolve. So when deciding whether to initiate litigation, it is worth your taking the time to see if the matter is meaningful enough to you to go all the way if that’s the way it works out.
My case is so solid that I don’t see why I should have to pay a lawyer all that much.
I have been litigating for more than 37 years, and I am yet to see a “slam dunk” case, though I can’t tell you how many times prospective clients have described their case that way to me. Frankly, if after the consultation the client still feels that way, I will probably not work with them. Because I am set up from the beginning.
We all have our own perspective on things. If five of us sit in a circle with a bottle in the middle, there is only one bottle but we will see five different bottles, because of the different vantage points. That is how it works in litigation, too. More often than not, the other side is as firmly convinced of the righteousness of their position as you are. And so is their lawyer. And something always pops up somewhere in the case that my client did not tell me about because, in the beginning, he just didn’t think it really mattered.
Of all those people who came to me for a consultation and started by saying that their case was a slam dunk, not one of them believed that after the consultation.
I’m a small business owner? I can’t afford to pay just to have access to an attorney?
The simple truth is that a business owner, regardless of the size of the business, cannot afford not to have a lawyer on some sort of retainer. I am also a small business owner and fight the cash flow battle just like you. I understand that it is difficult to justify a few hundred or a few thousand for access to a lawyer, especially when there is no immediate problem. But it is because your margin is what it is that you need that attorney because, for you, that first lawsuit could be the end of your business.
I have litigated seven and eight figure lawsuits that could have been avoided completely if the client had been willing to pay a couple thousand at the beginning of the deal to get the contract negotiated and drafted by an attorney. Or maybe even if the client had called and asked a question that could have been answered with a few hundred dollars.
It’s about being penny wise and pound foolish.
Don’t I want the most aggressive attorney, above all else?
Again, yes and no. Fire and brimstone makes for good TV, and there is a time for it in real litigation, too. But look at it this way . . .
Litigation is about trying to get someone – a judge, a jury, your opponent – to give you what you want, what you feel is yours. Now, think about your life. Do you like to give to someone who is a total jerk? No, you want to give to the people you like, whom you relate to, whom you trust, who seem to get who you are. Well, your lawyer is speaking for you, trying to get what you want for you. If he is a total jerk, what are the chances that that judge, jury, opponent will want to give that lawyer what he wants for you.
No, what you need is someone who is determined, and unafraid, and will not back down. But getting in people’s faces does not work in the law any more than in life.
What you want is someone who has lived life, who knows people, who listens first and then speaks, who appreciates people and recognizes that everyone has a point of view. That’s the lawyer you want to hire.
What is your philosophy?
“I know the law but, more importantly, I know people.” I believe in listening first, and talking second, because people want to be heard. I believe that being professional does not mean keeping a distance from my clients: humans want to be taken personally. I believe that the problem you bring me remains your problem, not mine, but that it is my job to keep you from feeling alone in it.
Why should I hire your firm? What sets you apart from your competitors in the area?
Two things . . .
My life has not been all about the law . . . libraries and facts and precedents. I have spent considerable time pursuing business and personal interests outside the law. These experiences enable me to think beyond just the thoughts of a lawyer. I know what it is like to keep a struggling business alive. I know the heartbreak of long time relationships going bad. I know the experience of losing it all and having to crawl back. All of this enables me to hear my clients in a different way than many others can.
Related to this, I have learned, through the experience of raising my children and through my faith, that every person’s path is a little bit different than everyone else, and that it is not my job to judge my clients. My job is simply to serve them and fight for them as best I can.
How can I get more information?
You’re welcome to fill out the contact form on this page or give me a call at 480-621-7368 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.