On about five different occasions, I’ve hired attorneys. I’ve had a personal-injury attorney represent me after I was injured. I’ve had an attorney represent my wife who was sued following a car accident. I’ve hired attorneys to represent my father’s trucking company. I’ve had both good and bad experiences.
What distinguishes my good experiences from my bad experiences is the demonstrated competence of some of the attorneys. On several instances, I can recall going into the attorney’s office. The attorney seemed ready to engage as soon as I walked into the room. He had already done some research. He was already to discuss the law. He pointed out potential pitfalls in the case. He offered advice as to how to maneuver through the legal thicket. He gave me some materials to read as I left. And then, he followed up. The attorney was on top of things. Nothing
was left to chance.
A competent attorney is a person who demonstrates an ability to do whatever needs to be done. Usually, the attorney has done it before. They’ve achieved a certain amount of success or efficiency. As the attorney encounters legal issue after legal issue, you can see how they deal with the issues. “This is how we can deal with this.” “This is what we will do, if this brought up.”
There is a demonstrated proficiency as the attorney speaks. It gives encouragement. Before long, a partnership is born. The partnership is the union of the attorney and the client in a common goal.
Clients are strong on the facts. Attorneys are strong on the law. When clients and attorneys bond and form a team, they can become a formidable foe. That is because the sum of
the parts exceeds the whole. When you have a competent attorney, the attorney listens to the client. The attorney remains non-judgmental. The attorney is thirsty for the facts. He wants to
know the names, addresses, telephone numbers, etc. of every critical witness in the case. He wants to know and see all of the applicable documents. The attorney wants the client’s narrative.
What happened? When did it happened? Who was present? How did things unfold?
The attorney’s work begins with legal research. He looks at the law. He looks at jury instructions. How will the judge instruct the jury as to the law? Once the attorney is immersed in the law and he’s listened to the client’s expose of the facts, he begins to put together a theory of the case. He begins to thinks of litigation themes. He begins to put together a plan – a trial plan. Plans are good. A lack of planning is bad. Go with the attorney who can put a plan together.
When a good litigation plan comes together, it comes together like a work of art. It’s like creating a sculpture. First, you build the torso. Then, you build the limbs and the heads. Then you give your creation some features.
My tip of the day: when you look for a trial lawyer, look first for competence. If they have a demonstrated track record, it’s likely they know what they’re doing.
However, make certain that they demonstrate it to you – the client. If they can’t impress you, how can they ever
impress a judge or a jury?
Written by Peter Decato, Esquire
Posted by Keely Marie, Senior Law Clerk