Tuesday, July 10, 2018

How to Find a Lawyer



Hello! My name is Kimberly Shin. I am a business law attorney. I have my own practice that’s based in Washington, D.C. and New York.

I wanted to get on here to answer some commonly asked questions that entrepreneurs might have.

My first topic is hopefully helpful not just to entrepreneurs but to the general public because it’s about finding and choosing a lawyer. This is a common question most people have because eventually you do need, will need, or will want to work with a lawyer. It might be for a traffic violation or you might be purchasing a house or starting a business. So the question becomes how do you find one? What are signs of a good lawyer? What are signs of a bad lawyer?

Some of these answers are based on my own experiences in the profession and some of the answers come from the American Bar Association. The American Bar Association, if you don’t know, is good to know about because it is the largest community of lawyers in the United States. Sometimes, the American Bar Association or your state or local bar association will have legal referral services. These can be especially helpful for people who can’t afford to hire an attorney. So let’s say you have a landlord tenant issue or maybe a criminal matter, and you can’t afford an attorney, the bar associations may be a good place to turn to. They often have a roster of attorneys who are willing to work on a pro bono basis or for a lower fee. So be sure to check them out.

By the way, I use the words lawyer and attorney interchangeably here and you’ll find that most people do.

Ok so to keep it short, I’m going to give you three tips.

This is my first tip and also the American Bar Association’s first tip as well, is

Find Someone You’re Comfortable Speaking With

Your attorney is your advisor and confidant. They advocate on your behalf or on your business’s behalf. And you want to feel comfortable sharing information about your personal circumstances with them.

Be aware that we’re not talking about whether your attorney is trustworthy or not because attorneys have strict ethical rules we have to follow that prevent us from sharing privileged information with others. What we’re talking about here is how do you feel in their presence? Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel rushed? Do you feel like they don’t have time to speak with you and give you the time of day? Do you feel like they are actually listening to you or are they doing most of the talking? Are they taking the time to explain what’s going on in your case to you?

The reason why these are all factors to consider is because if they’re not taking the time to listen to you, they may miss a crucial point in your case. If they have a rude demeanor, it’s likely they won’t win any favor with any judges or clerks or opposing counsel. In the legal profession, people won’t make important decisions based on someone’s personality; however, they can definitely make things a little bit easier or a little bit harder based on how personable you are.

So that’s point number 1. Find someone you can feel comfortable speaking with.

Point number 2 is slightly related. It’s about whether the lawyer communicates with you. Unfortunately, the biggest complaint that lawyers get in the legal industry is that they’re unresponsive. This complaint arises from the fact that the lawyer didn’t regularly communicate what they were working on with their clients. To the clients it seems like the lawyer dropped off the face of the earth after they were paid. How is this possible? Well, either they’re working on your case in the background and you have no idea they’re working on your case because they’re hard to reach. Or you might be right they haven’t been working on your case and they’re avoiding your phone calls. Either way, it’s not a good sign. Clients don’t like it. They don’t like to be kept in the dark about what’s going on with their case. They want to know that their lawyer is actually working for them. And truthfully it’s hard to tell right off the bat whether the lawyer is communicative or not. Unfortunately, many people learn the lesson the hard way after they’ve already hired the firm. They realize that “oh, my lawyer is really hard to reach. They don’t respond to my emails. They don’t pick up the phone.” So that’s not a position I want you to be in. So I have two rules of thumb that I would use myself if I needed a lawyer. First, what has communication with them been like so far?  Have they been responsive? Have they been regularly reaching out to you and sending you reminder emails about your appointment time, about documents that you have to fill out and submit to them? If so, then this might be a firm that already has good practices in place to keep you aware of what’s happening with your case. If it hasn’t been great from the beginning, it might be an indicator that they will continue to be unresponsive. The second rule of thumb that I would follow is whether they have a client portal. I find the client portal to be very important for several reasons. You know that your law firm is taking advantage of the latest technologies. And technology can help reduce overhead costs. So what I’m talking about it, if you’re able to upload a document to your client portal, you’re saving yourself time from printing, packing, mailing, sending it to your lawyer, and following up with your lawyer to confirm that they’ve received it.  And your attorney is doing the same thing. You’re paying some to pick up the mail for your attorney, to open the letters, to scan, to file, to copy, to call you to confirm that they’ve received it. All of it is a little bit inefficient. If they don’t have to send it by mail, isn’t it better to submit it through your online portal? The other great advantage to having an online portal is that no one is losing any documents and you can see exactly what has been taking place in your case.  So if you ever need a document, if you ever want to remember, oh, what did that letter say? Then you can always go into your portal and see what did that representative, maybe a government agency, say to you? When did they say they would respond to your inquiry, for example? And you can actually take a look at it yourself, and you don’t actually have to call your attorney and use their time to get that question answered. So those are some tips for choosing a lawyer who will actually communicate with you and who won’t leave you in the dark about what’s happening in your case.

So remember, the first point was to find a lawyer you feel comfortable speaking with. The second point was to find a lawyer that takes the time to communicate with you.

The third and final point is to find a lawyer through your network. This might be obvious, but I wanted to keep this video short and keep it simple. So ask family and friends for recommendations. The problem you might run into here is that most lawyers specialize in one or two practice areas. By practice areas, I mean they might specialize in family law, immigration law, criminal law, or business law like myself. So let’s say your friend used a great immigration lawyer in the past, and you give them a call, don’t be surprised they aren’t able to help you with your speeding ticket, for example. Another thing you have to consider is location. Let’s say did find a great lawyer you would like to work with who does specialize in traffic violations. Well they might be 50 miles away from the courthouse where they have to appear to represent you in your traffic case. So they might have to turn you down because the distance might be too far. So for these reasons and maybe several other reasons, don’t be offended if they have to turn you down or refer you to someone else. And hold a grudge against that firm. They’re not equipped or competent to help you or there might be several other things going on. And they might have decided it’s best for you to find somebody else. Either way, no matter what happens, just try again. Try again. It takes a few tries to find someone that you feel comfortable with.

OK! So these are my three tips.

I wanted to keep it short and I wanted to keep it simple. So remember, find someone you feel comfortable with, find someone who takes the time to communicate with you, and ask around for a good referral. If all else fails, you can always Google. Thanks for watching. I hope this was helpful. See you next time! Goodbye.

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