As with all professional relationships, it is paramount that there be a good fit between an attorney and a client. Personalities, expectations, and dynamics play an important role in determining whether the engagement is a success. My last issue examined the “ideal client.” This issue examines the “ideal attorney.”
A popular discount clothing store has famous commercials where one person will be shown on the left side of the screen to have purchased a jacket from a competitor for a certain price, and a second person will be shown on the right side of the screen to have purchased the exact same jacket at the discount store, plus three or four additional items of clothing, for the same price. The message of the advertisement is that one can purchase the exact same product at the discount store for less and that therefore the discount store is naturally the better option.
Searching for the right legal services is not as easy. It is much more difficult to determine if a client would be able to get the same services from different attorneys. Unlike shopping for a product, when searching for the ideal attorney, a client must look beyond the surface. Below are key qualities that the ideal attorney possesses and that should be considered when searching for legal counsel.
One of the most common complaints about attorneys is that they are unable to create a comfortable rapport with their clients. Attorneys spend years learning complex legal principles and are often unable to “translate” these ideas for non-attorneys. As a result, they use language and concepts that are foreign to their clients. The clients often do not feel comfortable enough to ask for clarification and do not fully understand the advice they are seeking.
The ideal attorney removes all barriers by communicating in a manner that the client understands and creates a pleasant environment where the client does not hesitate to ask questions or request additional explanation. Regardless of how much expertise the attorney possesses, there is no need to “put on airs” or try to “impress” the client with the attorney’s education. Being helpful to the client should be the primary goal.
(2) Listens to the Client’s Concerns
Sometimes attorneys have the propensity to “force” a solution that does not seem to address the client’s concern. While it may often be the case that an attorney will identify issues of which the client was not aware, it is of paramount importance that the attorney truly understands what is motivating the client to seek legal guidance. Attorneys might have pre-conceived notions about what “should” be the client’s concerns and develop solutions to those issues that do not address the client’s actual needs.
The ideal attorney balances the need to guide the client through the maze of legal issues while at the same time ensuring that the solutions proposed solve the client’s actual problems rather than solving parallel issues that might not be as important to the client.
The law is complex and it is impossible to be an expert in all of the hundreds of different legal practice areas. “General practice” attorneys who handle legal matters as varied as criminal law, civil litigation, intellectual property, and estate planning most often do not have enough the depth of knowledge in any one area of the law to adequately counsel their clients.
The California State Bar puts such an emphasis on the need for attorneys to focus on key areas of the law that it created the Board of Legal Specialization. The Board of Legal Specialization creates a rigorous program to certify attorneys as “Legal Specialists” in several different practice areas. The ideal attorney is a Certified Legal Specialist in the area of law in which the client seeks help. To find a Certified Legal Specialist in California, you may visit the website listed below:
(4) Fair, Reasonable, and Caring
The ideal attorney treats the client with respect, honesty, and integrity. With regard to all aspects of the attorney / client relationship such as scheduling, communication, and billing, the ideal attorney is fair and reasonable and is primarily motivated with the desire to help solve the client’s issues. Far too often attorneys are “slaves” to the billable hour, believing that every communication and interaction must be reduced to an invoice. While the legal profession is a business, the ideal attorney has a holistic view of the relationship and understands that a basic “fairness component” must always be considered.
KRASA LAW is located at 704-D Forest Avenue, PG, and Kyle can be reached at 831-920-0205.