Alright, you are impressed by the office decor, by the initial greeting, and now it is time to get down to the brass tacks. Your potential lawyer has asked you some questions and often feels like they are the one making the decision, and you should be thankful for the opportunity to give him your money. This is not the case at all, and you should come to the table with a list of questions to ask them in the first consultation. Watch the lawyers’ eyes as you ask them these questions because you will know if they don’t like to be questioned. Many of these lawyers will have a god complex and will take offence to being asked questions, but that does not mean you shouldn’t ask them; it just means that the lawyer that takes offence might not be the right option for you. In any case, here are the top five questions you should ask potential counsel:
- What was your most challenging loss as a lawyer? The question scares some people, but you want to see what type of human you are dealing with. We care deeply about our clients and take each loss very personally. When You ask this question, the facade will disappear, and their body language will be able to tell you whether they genuinely care about their client. Plus, as people say, it is the defeats that build greatness. Like it or not, a top heart surgeon likely killed a few patients on their path to greatness. Top lawyers learn their lessons from the defeats, not their wins. You want to see if the lawyer can speak about how he learned from a loss, and you will see in their body language and demeanour if they cared more about their clients or their egos.
- Can you give me the date and name of the last case you took to trial and won? Get the specifics to look the case up, as some people will exaggerate or bluff here. It is terrifying to realize that most partners at law firms have not run a successful jury trial. If you have a litigation matter, you want to know if your lawyer has actual trial experience, not experience arguing Motions and writing mean letters. An actual courtroom is one of the scariest places to be, and a trial lawyer must have a very different skill set than an office lawyer. If you are entrusting your life to someone, you want to make sure they have the parts, and more importantly, the reputation for taking matters to trial. The other side knows if your lawyer can perform in a courtroom, so you should know this as well before making a hiring decision. Sadly many lawyers are not trial lawyers; they are claim adjusters moving paper back and forth until a settlement is reached or you are out of money.
- What skillset do you need help with to make sure my case is successful? No one is perfect. Every lawyer has different skill sets that can be impressive. But what is essential and often overlooked by arrogant professionals is their weak spots, and knowing your weak spots is crucial to making sure you do not lose. In our firm, each lawyer is obligated to perform self-assessments on their strongest and weakest areas, which we then build a team around them to ensure the client gets the best service. Some lawyers are spectacular courtroom performers, but they are not great with computers or the finer details. So we ensure they have a top clerk skilled in that area. Some lawyers are brilliant researchers who can find solutions others have missed in the law, they are augmented by experienced writers who can put the solution into powerfully written advocacy. The aim here is to see if your potential lawyer has any self-awareness. There are times where the lawyer will be shocked by the audacity of the question, but top performers are self-aware; they push hard with their skill sets and work with others to fill the gaps. This question will tell you something about the character of the lawyer you are interviewing.
- Which support staff or clerk will be assigned to my case? See if the lawyer has heard what you have been saying and paired you with a legal professional with whom you can connect. If they don’t know who you will be paired with or make you feel like the question is unimportant, they are not concerned about your well-being. You will be dealing primarily with a clerk or support staff after the interview is over. That support person will become your lifeline and often a good friend on the legal journey. I have gone so far as to insist the client meets our clerk before we sign up to make sure there is a fit. Do not underestimate how meaningful your relationship is with the clerk because the lawyer usually disappears for a while after you hire the firm. Ask why that clerk is a good fit for your case and see if the lawyer has some human skills.
- What skillset can you bring to the table that helps you win cases over and above your law degree? Every lawyer has a bunch of degrees sitting on their walls. Gone are the days when degrees alone were enough to impress a client. In today’s competitive market, lawyers need to augment their skills through robust professional development constantly. Unfortunately, too many of them attend sleepy conferences where they clink glasses and rub elbows. They are not pushing themselves to be better lawyers to build better advocacy skills, persuasion, negotiating, or research skills. If they are aggressively self-improving, it is a sign they are passionate about their job and are not just resting on their laurels.
Honestly, after these questions, the lawyer will not take you for granted and will see you in a very different light than most of his clients. This is good because it means he will pay attention to your case. You are empowered.
Choose Millars Law when you cannot afford to lose. When you need a lawyer, you need peace of mind. This comes from knowing that someone skilled and trustworthy is on your side and defending your interests. If you or someone you know needs to speak to a lawyer, please feel free to reach out to us to book a consultation.