Choosing Attorney

This information is not meant to disparage other attorneys or to disapprove generally of advertising, which is a necessary part of our consumer system. However, it is meant to be an honest critique of some common methods people use to choose an attorney or some attorneys try to illogically assert as authority for choosing them. Be a good consumer of legal services just as anything else - it takes some research, evaluation, and willingness to change if you do not get what you expected. Prior to becoming an attorney I worked in many positions and had to hire attorneys for advice, contracts, and litigation. I wish I had paid closer attention and asked more questions throughout so I could have had better experiences (some were good but others were negligent). Hopefully you will choose someone with whom you can work well and who will honestly and aggressively work toward your goals.

How to choose?

How can you know who is a good professional before you hire them? Choosing an attorney is not different than choosing a doctor, accountant, mechanic, or any other professional that can turn out to be a blessing or a burden. How do you choose? Age/Years as Attorney? Rating Services? Paid Referral Websites? Advertisements? Recommendations? Claims of Wins? Get to know your attorney personally and be open to changing if needed. Every characteristic could result in an attorney who is great or poor. You will want to continually analyze whether your attorney is meeting your needs and being thorough in your representation. No one can win all the time, but your attorney should be able to explain the law, the relevant facts, the court preferences/biases, and possible outcomes. Negotiation should be attempted first in all matters (to keep animosity and costs down), but if that is unsuccessful, then being thoroughly prepared for a court hearing or trial is critical.

Getting to know your attorney personally is the only way to evaluate an attorney.

Unfortunately, this often requires you to hire an attorney and spend money before you know if you are satisfied. Start with an initial conversation for free on the phone to get an impression of the attorney's interpersonal skills and then possibly pay for an in-person meeting to review your paperwork and case. This initial consultation ($100 for about 1.5 hours) is a good way to get to know the attorney and see if there is a way for you to have only limited representation by the attorney and you represent yourself in court (or other forms of limited representation where the attorney can be involved as little or much as you wish). Then when you hire the attorney and staff and as you work together try to keep an open mind as to how they talk with you, how clearly they communicate goals/expectations/outcomes, and how well they are preparing your case. Remember that you can always change attorneys at any time.

Free phone consultation.

I strongly recommend you contact possible attorneys by phone and discuss the basic outline of your case to get a feel for the attorney's interpersonal skills and your ability to talk together. You will not be able to get specific advice on your case because attorneys ethically must review all the facts before giving specific opinions, but you should be able to get procedural and general advice. Feel free to call our office for a free phone consultation. I offer this to allow potential clients to get to know me and so we can decide if your case is something we both wish to work together to resolve. The free phone consultation usually last between 15 to 45 minutes based on the uniqueness of the call.

Age or years of legal work?

It is true that experience can teach more than any book. However, there are some newer attorneys who are so aware of their need to do well that they spend the extra time researching the law, understanding the possible outcomes, and extra time preparing your documents (all at no expense to you). It is also true that there are attorneys who have been doing the same thing for many years and have a routine and set knowledge base that does not encourage reading the new court cases, updated laws, or articles about a particular area of law. You should seek someone with the right amount of experience and desire to keep up to date with the new developments. I have been an attorney since 2006 and read / research the law continuously. This is my third career (previously counseling and construction) so I also have other career experience (as well as general life experience) to give a balanced, creative, and aggressive perspective to solve your legal issues. Your attorney's personal attitude and actions are more important than age or years of legal work - pay attention to your instincts and don't be afraid to ask questions or challenge your attorney.

Rating Services?

There are many online websites or print media more than willing to take money from an attorney to promote their name and give them a high rating. Many also have some limited information and ratings for those not paying their premium fees, but those are usually no more than data sets with no direct relation to the attorney's interpersonal skills, legal knowledge, thoroughness, or aggressiveness. It is possible to manipulate these data sets to appear more qualified or competent (the good rating can represent a very good attorney or a very good marketer). These services can be a start, but should be seen with the skeptic view appropriate to their purpose. Be careful of rating services who claim to have no financial connection, since most are businesses who make money some way. Remember that at any time you can question your attorney regarding their performance or seek a confidential review by another attorney (hopefully that review will be honest and not motivated to get you as a new client).

Paid Referral Websites?

I am contacted every week from referral services and websites wanting to charge me to give a glowing review and recommendation of my law firm with referrals of clients who don't know the recommendations are paid. It is very easy for one of these companies to set up a website and appear authoritative and detached. Some are well positioned online websites and some are local, regional, and national magazines. Be careful when accepting the review and recommendation of such a promoter as this is usually no better than a paid advertisement. It is a good way to get the name of an attorney, but make sure to do your personal and individual research to get a few names to interview and see how you are treated - remember you can change attorneys any time you realize you are not being represented honestly and aggressively.


Advertising is a necessary activity for businesses to become noticed and for consumers to learn about their options. Yet, who is not going to say they are the most experienced, the most prepared, the best at customer service, the person with the most wins (or money obtained), or other claim to get you to call and become a client? These are good things to read or hear, but think about "too good to be true" claims. No one fighting for the right legal battles wins all the time because life is too complicated for this result because of too many conflicting facts, too many possible goals, and too many other variables. Accept claims in advertisements with a healthy dose of perspective (don't forget that you can change attorneys at any time if their promises do not match your experience). Use advertisements (online, phone books, print, etc) to your advantage to become well informed.

Claims of wins?

No one can win all the time or get remarkable results for every client. In many areas of law there are no true "wins" but instead favorable outcomes with little downside - at best. For example, if you have a trial in family law then everyone "loses" something in the emotional process and litigation costs even if I am able to get you almost everything you want. Additionally, there are always small or large decisions by the court that do not go a particular way an attorney and client desires that is entirely outside of both the client and attorney's control. You should question an attorney's definition of "win" if they claim to win all the time since they may define win differently than you or not count cases they withdrew from just before "losing" the case outcomes. You should feel confident in the many possible outcomes of your case based on the facts of your situation so that you can define an acceptable "win" for yourself. An attorney should be able to give you a range of outcomes based on the facts of your case for you to make a decision about how much emotional and financial costs you are willing to take on to win your case.


These are likely better than most forms of self-promotion because they claim to come from actual satisfied customers. If they appear in advertisements, then of course these are the clients chosen by the attorney who were happy with the attorney (if you can get a personal recommendation from someone in the community that is better). Who would post opinions of clients who are dissatisfied? Now there are people hired to post positive reviews of companies, products, and professionals so it is hard to know what online recommendations are real. Also, there are always going to be clients who do not get what they want or have unrealistic expectations and will not be happy with any attorney. I strive to make sure all possible outcomes are known and my clients are aware of all the work going into fighting for their goals. Even clients who don't get everything they want are most often happy with my work and refer their family and friends.