Question One: How many employment law cases have to your tried to completion?
Question Two: What systems do you have in place to manage my case?
Question Three: How active are you in professional organizations?
These are difficult questions perhaps, but with a little preface to the questions, they will seem perfectly reasonable: “I am a lay person. I am trying to select the most qualified and trustworthy advocate. May I ask a several questions about your background?”
Good lawyers will graciously and generously answer your questions. If you do not get that reception, it’s best to look for another employment law practitioner. But there are also three questions you may find useful to ask yourself after your meeting with your lawyer candidate:
Question 1: Did I feel a positive, confidence inspiring connection with this person?
Question 2: Did I feel I was heard, and that he or she got the essential points?
Question 3: Did I leave feeling I understood the big picture of what this attorney would do for me, how, and when?
You don’t have to like your lawyer to obtain good results, but it will make the process easier because you’ll be working as a team. This “team” approach to the case is especially true in contingency cases where you and the lawyer each have a percentage stake in the outcome. A good lawyer will want that team spirit and connection as much as you. Here are three questions that your should ask both you and your lawyer before you go forward:
Question 1: Do we communicate clearly and efficiently with one another?
Question 2: Can we laugh and relax even as we discuss difficult legal issues?
Question 3: Do we exchange ideas and insights about the case freely?
These “team” based answers will give you a preview of how you and your lawyer will respond when there is an unexpected negative turn in the case (and there always is.) For example, what if the other attorney uses intimidation tactics, or a particular piece of evidence is excluded, or a critical motion is denied, or perhaps a cooperative witness disappears or changes his anticipated testimony? You need to work together at those times to develop new approaches in the heat of the situation.
Here are 3 final questions, perhaps questions at the highest level of evaluation:
Question 1: Is my lawyer able to tell the emotional story of my case?
Question 2: Is my lawyer able to connect well with other people, especially people likely to be on a jury, or sitting as judge of my case?
Question 3: Is my lawyer creative, looking for tactics and approaches that may seem unusual, but that give us an edge against the opposition?
There are no perfect lawyers, just as you will not be the perfect client with the perfect case. Your goal is to find the best imperfect lawyer you can, and to be able to work with both the strengths and weaknesses of both him or her, and your particular case.
About the author —
Frank Pray has devoted the last 18 years of his nearly 40 years of practice to litigating cases exclusively for employees in wrongful termination, discrimination, whistle-blower, harassment, and wage/hour cases. As a sole practitioner, he gives his personal attention to each client, from the first meeting to the settlement or verdict. He is an experienced trial and arbitration lawyer, and active member of the Orange County Bar Association Labor and Employment Section [2011 Section Chair]. He is also a member of the William P. Gray Inn of Court, dedicated to excellence and ethics in the practice of law, and a member of the Orange County Bar Association “Masters Division” and Solo Practitioners Section.