How do you know when to walk out the door? Sometimes, after researching an attorney online and reading their reviews, you get a good feeling about the person or firm and want to meet with them in person. In fact, meeting with the lawyer in person is the best way to figure out if they are a good fit to represent you and take control of your case.
This is crucial because you should see where they work, how they interact with you and their staff, how they talk about cases and your case, and how comfortable you feel with their approach, system, and personality.
As someone who has worked at multiple firms for over a decade, I can think of a number of indications or scenarios that should automatically raise red flags in your mind. If you witness any of the following things at the initial consult at an attorney’s office, whether free or not, do yourself a favor and get up from your seat, thank the attorney for his or her time, turn around and walk out the door.
The thirteen reasons to take a hike, in no particular order, are:
1. The attorney is late to your appointment:
Not necessarily if they have an appointment before yours and let it run over. However, if you see them walk in to the firm for the first time, as long as they aren’t returning from court or other practice meeting or legal proceeding. If they walk in late from lunch or in the morning, this is a bad sign. It means they do not value your time and most likely, will not value your case.
2. The attorney is not dressed professionally:
Preferably, they should be wearing a suit when they greet you. However, if it is a Friday or customary to the jurisdiction in which they practice to go sans tie (like very warm climates, I’m thinking Hawaii, etc.) you can disregard this one. Again, the lack of professional appearance indicates what is more than likely a nonchalant attitude toward their image and career in general, and is a problem for you, the prospective client.
3. The office is dirty or unkempt:
4. There are files on the ground:
While this may seem like a small deal, I assure you; it is not.
5. They bad mouth other lawyers.
6. They can’t simplify your complex issues in layman’s terms.
7. They can’t articulate how they will help you specifically. And, or; they can’t tell you about someone in a substantially similar situation to you that they have successfully helped accomplish their legal or practical goals.
8. They do not shut the door behind you when you are speaking about the case.
9. They do not do a “conflict check” on you and your case:
The attorney should find out before hearing to many details about your case if they currently have or have ever had a client or case that conflicts, ethically, or practically, with you or your interests. Not performing such a check sheds light on the attorney’s lack of concern for ethics and protecting your interests.
10. They don’t clearly explain the attorney-client privilege and that everything you share with them (with a few caveats) will be kept confidential and not shared with anyone without your permission.
11. They don’t explain how you will be charged/they don’t have a written fee agreement.
12. If you would be the Plaintiff in an injury or civil litigation case where you have been wronged and they want to charge you hourly, as opposed to on a contingency basis:
They don’t believe in your case and just want to bill you for their time. If they believed in the merit of your case or thought it was worth it for you to pursue, they would personally invest in the outcome and agree to take a percentage (usually 33-40% of the award or settlement).
13. You get a gut feeling that they don’t care about you or aren’t interested in their case.