You hear at the end of all commercials – “The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.” That’s not just a catchy phrase, it’s a rule. Specifically it’s Missouri Supreme Court Rule 4-7.2(f). This rule was created to remind any person in need of an attorney that he or she should not be persuaded by the catchiest commercials, best jingles or most handsome face on the screen. It reminds that person to do some research before making a decision. In the Kansas City Bankruptcy Community there is no shortage of attorneys to choose from. So what do you look for?
- You are hiring an attorney, not a paralegal
Paralegals are invaluable to attorneys. They provide assistance that cannot be measured and any good attorney will tell you that he or she could not maintain a successful practice without great paralegals. However, you are not hiring the paralegal. Some firms turn “client handling” over to paralegals and keep attorneys behind a protective wall. This should be a red flag to clients. Attorneys are ethically bound to discuss cases with clients. No attorney should be unreachable. If you cannot contact your attorney and always talk to paralegals, you may want to consider new representation.
- It doesn’t take 3 weeks to return a phone call or e-mail
Attorneys are busy, and we have a lot of clients, but we are still bound to communicate with clients. I always tell clients that I will respond as quickly as I possibly can. That should mean within 1 or 2 days. There are obviously exceptions – vacations, trials, an honest missed phone call or e-mail; but if there is a pattern of communication failures and refusals to respond to clients – this is a problem. It is your case, you should get answers when you need them. But communication is a two way street. Clients must be reasonable in their response demands. Absent an emergency, a lawyer is entitled to the occasional day of peace at the Lake with his or her family. A status update phone call or e-mail with a client should not interrupt that.
- It should “feel” right.
At the end of the day, attorney-client relationships are personal relationships. Sometimes people hit it off, sometimes they do not. I’ve seen times when neither party did anything “wrong”, but it did not work due to personal friction. Make sure you feel comfortable with your attorney before embarking on this journey. Depending on your case you could be with this attorney for up to 5 years. That’s a long time to be with someone you do not like. If you are getting a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach, it may be time to find someone else.