A Cynic’s Guide to Choosing a Lawyer

If you’re asking yourself right now, “Why would I take a lawyer’s advice about how to find a lawyer?”, congratulations. You are the type of person for whom we’ve written this article.

Our answer to your question is simple: Because we work with lawyers day in and day out, we understand them better than anyone else. Follow our advice, and you’ll be able to find a good lawyer when you need one.

Read time: 4 minutes.

Objection #1: “Lawyers only want easy jobs. They always put my case in the too hard basket.”
This complaint is one of the biggest paradoxes within the law industry: Clients want a lawyer who will take on their case, but at the same time they need a lawyer who is honest and sets realistic expectations.

The best way to find out if you have a case worth pursuing is to shop around for multiple opinions. Many law firms offer a free initial consultation, which you can use to find out:

  • Whether your case can be won;
  • What possible roadblocks you may run into;
  • If the lawyer you’re considering has experience winning cases similar to yours;
  • The level of commitment running your case will require from you, and;
  • Their fee structure.

A good lawyer won’t tell you what you want to hear; they’ll tell you what you need to know.

Objection #2: “Lawyers only care about making money, even if I win my case most of the money will probably go to legal fees.”

Even if you have confidence in both the capability of your lawyer and the strength of your case, you still have to decide if you can afford to pursue your matter.

In Queensland, lawyers must provide their clients with a “Costs Agreement”.

There are two types of costs agreements:

  1. Conditional Costs Agreements: These are the “no win no fee” deals you see on billboards and TV. You only pay fees if your case is successful, and your lawyer can’t charge you more than 50% of the total compensation amount in a personal injury case.
  2. Cost Agreements: These agreements include fees and expenses you have to pay regardless of the outcome of your case.

The important things to know about both types of cost agreements are:

  • They must show how the lawyers calculate the costs;
  • They must provide realistic estimates that take into account variables likely to affect the final costs you must pay;
  • They must tell you when and how you’ll be billed and explain any interest you’ll be charged on overdue amounts;
  • You can negotiate the costs within an agreement before you sign;
  • You can ask to receive progress reports throughout your case, and;
  • You can request an itemised bill after you’ve signed.

That said, if the legal work your lawyer carries out costs less than $1,500.00 (excluding GST), they don’t have to provide you with all this information.

Objection #3: “Lawyers are arrogant.”

In our blog “How to Argue Like a Good Lawyer” we discuss why so many unflattering lawyer stereotypes exist. While some lawyers are undeniably arrogant, others simply choose to rely on reason instead of emotion so they will have a better chance of successfully arguing their client’s case.

But, in much the same way that you need to be able to talk openly with your doctor or your accountant, you need to have a good working relationship with your lawyer.

Before your first in-person meeting, you can find out a lot about your lawyer and the culture of their firm by:

Reading online reviews: Some firms are quick to get rid of bad reviews on their Google and official Facebook pages, but you can usually still find out what their customers’ experiences are like by searching forums, clicking past the first page of Google, and reading through comments on their social media posts.

Keeping in mind how large the firm is: A bigger firm may have a reputation for having a large pool of resources to draw upon, but a smaller firm will offer your more opportunities for direct communication with your lawyer and potentially lower fees as well.

Find out if your communication needs are compatible: Good communication is the key to mutually beneficial relationships. Find out from the outset how often your lawyer will communicate with you, if they’re willing to accommodate your preferred method of communication (email, phone calls, letters or even text messages), and how much they’ll charge you for each time you talk.

The Bottom Line

Whether you have a legal matter relating to your business, your family, your person or your property, you don’t have to settle for subpar legal representation.

There are hardworking, fair, and friendly lawyers out there who will do their best to help you out – you just need to know how to find them!

Need legal advice? Call +61 07 3607 3274, email info@phoenix-law.com.au or fill out our online contact form and our team of experienced, friendly solicitors will assist you in any way possible.