ILLINOIS LAW CENTER
How to Select an Attorney : Interview Mindset
People often ask me why I became an attorney. The answer is really quite simple. When I was a child my father was involved in a legal matter. He really had no idea where to turn to find an attorney or how to go about asking an attorney about his qualifications. He did what most people do, he selected an attorney out of the yellow pages and retained him. He did not know if the attorney was good or not or if the attorney practiced in the area of the controversy. The fact of the matter is that not all attorneys are created equal. Some have more experience and are better at handling certain types of matters than others. My father ended up having a bad experience with the attorney he had chosen. It was this experience which lead me to get involved in the practice of law and that drives me in my general philosophy in how I treat my clients. This is explained in detail in the Firm Philosophy section.
In preparing to select an attorney it is important to keep in mind several items. These things are common sense and if remembered will help you choose an attorney which you will be comfortable with. Finally, remember that these are merely general guidelines and do not guarantee that you will select an attorney who will be "perfect."
(1) Do Not Be Intimidated! This is the complaint I most frequently hear from clients when discussing their previous experiences with attorneys. I often ask them why they were intimidated. After all, the attorney they retained was working for them. He or she was, in essence, their employee. There is no reason to be intimidated. You do not have to retain an attorney if you feel uncomfortable with him or her. You can also terminate an attorney after you retain them if you later feel uncomfortable or believe he or she is not doing a good job. With this mind, you should never be intimidated. You should therefore not be afraid to ask questions and probe an attorney’s credentials and background during the initial interview. The attorney should be more than happy to respond to these inquiries. This questioning is a great way to get a feel for the attorney, his personality, and how he conducts his practice. The Checklist section contains a list of items you may want to cover in the interview.
(2) Be Prepared! You must do your homework and be prepared to discuss your problem in detail. This includes bringing all documents that relate to the matter with you to the interview. Knowing what your problem is will allow you to have a better understanding of what to ask the attorney. It will also allow for the attorney to answer your questions more thoroughly.
(3) Do Not Procrastinate! Many clients will procrastinate when confronted with a problem. Many times it is the fear of the unknown which causes the client to procrastinate. This fear stops them from seeking help. The best course of action is to seek legal advice as soon as possible, when you have the most options available to you. It is also the best way to insure that none of the options available to you have been lost. Does this mean you will win if you seek legal advice right away? Of course not, but it will allow you a greater opportunity to maximize the possibility of being successful.