In today’s times when people need a lawyer to do almost anything, the choice of which lawyer is very important. But as the number of lawyers to choose from has increased exponentially, the choice has become infinitely more complex. A similar “paradox” is the subject of an article about certain financial professionals in the most recent issue of Worth magazine.
In “The Investor’s Paradox,” hedge fund analyst Brian Portnoy detailed four “questions to ask before choosing a fund manager.” These questions are directed toward investors choosing whom to trust with their money. But these questions are also good examples of questions to ask when hiring a lawyer — simple, straight forward, and brutally honest. After all, you are choosing whom to trust with your confidences, your problem(s) and your money. Mr. Portnoy proposes the following questions:
1. CAN I TRUST YOU?
Citing Bernie Madoff, Mr. Portnoy explains that one bad investment can be devastating to an investor’s portfolio, and that “operational due diligence” is required. This is equally true about an attorney’s representation. If your attorney, who holds him/herself out as an expert, files a lawsuit for you, takes it up to trial and the judge determines he/she failed to allege the correct law and dismisses your whole case, that is what Mr. Portnoy would call ” a bomb [that] can ruin” you. So, before you hire an attorney, you should ask him/her or yourself, “can I trust you?”
2. WHAT DO YOU DO?
Mr. Portnoy suggests that starting the conversation with this question and asking follow-up questions can help an investor learn the “core investment expectations for the fund,” and possibly learn the risks that fund manager is taking. Likewise, when meeting an attorney for the first time, ask what they do (i.e., what kind of law do you practice?) and a series of follow-up questions so you can learn more about his/her core work expertise, experience, and ethic and the risks he/she takes.
3. ARE YOU GOOD AT YOUR JOB?
With this question, Mr. Portnoy advises investors to inquire whether a fund manager is skillful. He advises that a “satisfying arrangement” is more than the numbers, it is more the “social engagement of managing expectations.” In other words, “skill is about keeping one’s promises.” Determining whether an attorney is skillful is incredibly important, and his/her response to this question, especially his/her demeanor, can tell you a lot.
4. ARE YOU THE RIGHT FIT FOR ME?
This is the first question Mr. Portnoy suggests investors should ask themselves: “What is my objective?” This is also a question that every client needs to ask him/herself. Your objective should be ever-present in your mind when thinking about hiring an attorney. If you want, or expect, that a matter will go to trial, then you need to hire an attorney with credible trial experience. Nothing is worse than barreling to trial with an attorney at the helm, only to discover that he/she is inexperienced and/or afraid to go to trial.
Some of these questions might be difficult to ask an attorney, but they should at least be kept in mind and considered as part of the hiring process. Hiring a lawyer today can indeed be paradoxical. The more informed you are the better.
You’ve got options. The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field. Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970.