Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), there are an estimated 90,485 lawyers in the state of Texas, and the ABA estimates that there were over 1,000 new lawyers added to the lawyer population from 2017 to 2018. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has indicated that Texas had the fourth largest, 42,870 not including self-employed lawyers, concentration of employed lawyers in the country. So, with so many attorneys actively practicing law in the lone star state, the question you have to ask yourself is “How do I pick a good skilled attorney when there are so many to choose from?” The answer to this question isn’t easy, but utilizing the five factors listed below in the assessment process will yield important information for you to consider when you are selecting the attorney that is right for you.
Although it may sound odd, there are many law firms with clients that have never personally met their lawyer. Remember, as with most areas of life, the first impression your lawyer makes when they meet you will set the tone of your relationship. If an attorney sends a legal assistant or paralegal to meet with you and sign representational documents as opposed to meeting with you personally, you might want to think carefully about who you are about to hire, because you, as the client, should be valuable enough to warrant a personal meeting from the beginning.
The Texas Board of Law Examiners, with the approval of the Supreme Court, sets certain education requirements that each attorney must meet in order to sit for the bar exam and ultimately practice law in our state. However, gaining skill in the practice of law is accomplished through real world experience, because a lawyer will find out very quickly that there is a big difference between reading about the law and actually practicing it in real life. As such, you want to ask your attorney about their real world experience in the practice of law and what it has consisted of.
The best way to get an understanding of how skilled your attorney is and how they treat their clients is to look for feedback from previous clients. This can be done by reading reviews online or simply asking some of your friends or family members if they had any past experiences or cases with your lawyer. If a friend or family member refers you to an attorney, that is usually a good sign that the lawyer will go above and beyond to achieve the best possible result in your case.
Communication is often a problem for most lawyers, because they are usually very busy people. However, an attorney that communicates well will usually keep their clients informed of what is going on in their case. This is especially true if you are hiring a criminal defense attorney in Austin, TX, because criminal law cases can be some of the most stressful legal matters in the judicial system due to what is at stake in each case, which is normally your freedom. So, you want to ask your attorney what their normal response time is for emails and phone calls. This will allow you to set a standard from the beginning of the relationship, but remember, your lawyer cannot win a case if they are on the phone or answering emails for hours at a time. As such, you should always set realistic expectations when it comes to a communication standard.
Many people associate the job of a lawyer with preparing arguments and gathering evidence to support those argument, but that is only part of their job. One of primary reasons you hire an attorney is to consult with you on the areas of the law that apply to your case, but this consulting function is worthless if the lawyer cannot explain the law in a way that you understand. Moreover, the lawyer must be willing and patient enough to describe the legal strategy in your case in common language. Therefore, you should always evaluate how your attorney explains legal principles that apply to your case in your initial consultation. If the attorney is willing to explain them thoroughly and clearly in a way you understand, they will more than likely continue to do this throughout the life of your case, which will allow you to make informed decisions in the future.