Experienced in Your Area. Each area of law might be compared to each area of medical specialty, in that being the best podiatrist may not make you the best OB/GYN for example. If your attorney is not experienced in the area of law for which you need help, you have disadvantaged yourself by your choice.
Avoid - Practices in Too Many Areas. An attorney who practices in many different areas is likely a novice in many of them. Better to find an attorney who has spent a substantial amount of time practicing in the area of law for which you need help.
Listens to What You Have to Say. Your attorney needs all of the information, all of the background, and needs to fully understand your concerns and priorities.
Avoid - Lacks Attention to You. If the attorney does not listen to you, you can trust he does not care or understand, and nobody should pay for that type of representation.
Answers your Questions Honestly. Honest answers, especially during initial consultations before the attorney receives the documents and evidence in your case, may not be the answers you want to hear. Honest answers will not include guarantees or promises about results, but will include explanations of what may and may not happen. Your attorney will become your voice and ears in many ways, and if you cannot trust what he says to you, you will regret having hired him.
Avoid - Promises/Agrees Too Much. It is too easy for an attorney to agree with everything you say and promise everything you want, simply to get you to sign up. During an initial consultation, the attorney simply lacks too much information and evidence he needs to tell you what is going to happen with your case. So, if that is what he is doing, you might be getting a sales pitch more than a professional consultation.
Free Consultation. This provides an opportunity for a respected attorney to give back to the community, and more importantly for you, an opportunity for you to determine whether the attorney is a good match for you before you invest in hiring him.
Avoid - Consultation Fees. If you have to pay a fee for a consultation, you are agreeing to blindly pay for what may be a waste of your time. Further, if the attorney is so stingy that he cannot follow the customary practice of offering free consultations, you may find he is similarly stingy with his hourly billings, recovering every penny possible from you.
Has Support. The use of office staff, paralegals, and associates allows an attorney to represent you in a cost efficient manner, and also allows the attorney to focus his skills where they are most needed – in the courtroom and drafting legal motions.
Avoid - Works Alone. If your attorney works alone, you may be responsible for paying him to do what could be done much cheaper by office staff, paralegals, and associates.
Flat Fee. Different types of fees are appropriate for different types of cases. Contingency fees, for example, may be best when you lack funds to retain an attorney but still need representation. Flat Fees may also be preferential over retainers (which are just down payments followed by hourly billings), because you do not want to be surprised later to find a huge bill.
Avoid - Low Quotes/Big Surprises. Some attorneys get you on the hook with a low retainer, but follow up with large hourly bills. Better to have an idea of how much the entire representation will cost, with a flat fee for example, than to simply shop for the lowest down payment.
Large Fees/Big Surprises. It is not unusual to find an attorney who charges large fees, perhaps based on name recognition or advertising, that entice people to sign up in hopes of paying their way out of trouble. Large fees are not a good predictor of how you will prevail, and you may well find your high priced lawyer pressuring you to plea or settle immediately just like a cheap lawyer working out of the back of their car.
Avoid - No Fee Agreement. No respected lawyer will take on a case without a fee agreement. If you do not find a fee agreement, you may well have hired a sloppy lawyer, and you may end up in a dispute regarding what the actual agreement was.
Familiar with the Court. Having some familiarity with the court can be helpful, though not required. It allows the attorney to know beforehand how to navigate local practices and procedures, which may expedite your case.
Avoid - Suggests has Influence over the Judge. An attorney who suggests he has influence over a judge or prosecutor because they are friends, play golf, or the like has violated ethical rules. If the attorney has shown you that he is unethical, you may have little justification for complaining if he should then treat you unethically.
You Are in Control. You should want an attorney who gives you advice and who fully explains the law and process in a way you understand, including the options, risks, and benefits with each decision. Fully armed with the information you need, you should then be in control of how your case proceeds, based on your own individual priorities and circumstances.
Avoid - Pressures You to Plead. While sometimes the best choice is to plead, and sometimes there is pressure from the judge or prosecutor to plead, that pressure should never come from your attorney. Once you understand the risks and benefits of the choice whether to plead, and you make that decision, your attorney should move forward with your decision. Attorneys who pressure pleas simply to minimize their work, or to avoid a trial they are inexperienced or nervous to handle, should be avoided at all costs.