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Building Trust With Your Attorney

George Aldrich Oct. 7, 2019

How do you “trust” your lawyer.

The most common maxim of trust is that it is hard to gain and easier to lose.

So, when you are in a situation, how do you find a lawyer, and trust him?

Finding a lawyer is never an easy project. Nor should it be. The only time you need a lawyer is when you have a problem, be it a big problem, or a smaller problem. Usually the issue is such that you cannot fix it alone. There may be money involved, property involved, or even your liberty and freedom involved.

When you are in that situation you do not have many options but to hire someone to represent you and help you find resolution. You ask some friends, google “attorneys”, or start looking at the billboards on the freeway. You see many names, many promises, and educated well dressed people with veneered smiles and promises of their help.

Your first reaction may be to pick up the phone and start calling, or to create a list of the recommendations. Both options are good, and I have helped people who have used those methods. Some have good resolutions, others had not. Both times the reasoning behind all that came down to simply “trust”.

Trust is the ultimate decision maker when a person needs a lawyer. If you do not trust your lawyer, you should not use them. Simple as that. If you cannot trust what your attorney is telling you, then both you and the attorney will never be able to resolve your issue. If the attorney cannot trust their client to be truthful, or to tell the full story, or that the client may be hiding facts, there will also never be a beneficial resolution to the claim.

This trust leads us back to the first issue of finding a lawyer. There are many avenues out there to find the names of attorneys. There are online searches, word of mouth, or various advertisements.

When looking for the right fit, my recommendations are to get the names, then take these quick steps.

  • Make sure the names of the attorneys practice law in the area where your need is. As of right now there are over 165,000 attorneys in California. And many of those attorneys specialize in one or two areas of the law. For example, if you are in a dispute over your property rights in a home, an attorney who specializes in immigration will not help you. If you are hurt by a reckless tourist in a truck, a criminal defense attorney will not be able to help you. Check with your referral source to see what the attorney practices. Years ago, I needed an attorney, I asked around and was given a couple of names. When I ultimately connected with the name, I found that both did not practice in the area where my problem was. (one caveat to this, the attorney you call may not practice in your problem area, but they may know someone who does)

  • Check out the name. Put their name into google, search the California Bar, search on legal websites like Justia, Avvo and others. See the attorney’s reviews, see the attorney’s background, see the attorney. One positive of the California Bar, is that if the attorney has ever been found to have acted unethically, the charges and outcome is public and posted.

  • Interview the attorney. Much like any service, be it a contractor to repave your driveway, or to a realtor selling you a house, attorneys are people who specialize in a particular field. Talk to the attorney about your problem and ask questions. Listen to what the attorney says.

Many attorneys to gain your case, may over promise, or predict outcomes. This is usually puffery. It is simply an attempt by the attorney to get the case without knowing the full details. An experienced attorney can tell you three things on a phone call. First you have a case, second you don’t have a case, and third, you MAY have a case. There are just too many factors that will need to be discovered and explored before a case may have an inkling of strength.

  • When you talk to the attorney see if, as a person, you fit with them. Some of the best attorney/client relationships I have ever had have been when the client and I were on the same page. Part of the reason we were on the same page was quite simply because we both mutually liked and respected each other. That like and respect went a long way in our communication and ultimate case success.

  • Don’t be afraid to be honest and forthright during the initial phone call. All attorneys are bound by laws and rules regarding confidentiality. This means that even in an initial phone call, the attorney you are speaking to is bound to hold your confidence. If the attorney cannot hold that confidence because of a potential conflict, the attorney will tell you immediately and will do everything in their power to get out of the conversation.

  • Finally, just listen! Listen to the tone of the conversation, listen to the promises, or non-promises made, listen to how the attorney communicates with you, and listen to see if the attorney can answer the questions you have.

To wrap it up, once you speak to the attorneys, look at what was said, what they think about your issue, and who you felt comfortable with. Research the attorney’s online and make your choice. Once you have chosen your attorney, do not be afraid to keep communicating with them. Do not be afraid to ask questions, or to ask about issues in the case. Many times, the clients feel left out, or feel that the question is not important. These questions are important, and many times the questions that are asked will help the attorney narrow down a certain issue, or fact that will help your case.