I was involved in a wreck with a big truck. I am now out of the hospital and need to hire a Tennessee personal injury attorney. I met with a lawyer. He seemed like he knew what he was doing but he was a jerk and his office was an absolute disaster – I don’t know how he can find anything in there. I am nervous about hiring him, but I am not sure what I should do.
Lawyers are people (really!) and have different personalities. There are some inaccuracies in every generalization, but most lawyers would agree that lawyers who successfully try personal injury and wrongful death cases tend to more aggressive than passive, more self-confident (or perhaps even arrogant) than unusually humble, and better communicators than certain other types of lawyers. Frankly, lawyers who lack self-confidence do not belong in courtrooms.
Thus, before you hire a lawyer you need to meet the lawyer – it was very wise of you to do that. Do not rely solely on a commercial or a website description of the lawyer or the lawyer’s firm. Sit down and talk with the lawyer, preferably in the lawyer’s office, and try to figure out if (a) the lawyer is the type of person you want to work with during the pendency of your case; and (b) the lawyer is the type of person you want as your advocate before a jury if your case has to be tried. Use your common sense in making this decision, remembering that if the lawyer comes off as a jerk to you he will probably come off as a jerk to a judge and jury.
Why do we recommend meeting the lawyer in his or her office? It has nothing to do with the convenience of the lawyer. A lawyer’s office may provide valuable information about the lawyer. Does it appear well-organized? Is it clean? Does it present a professional appearance? Are you treated with respect by other employees of the firm? Does the lawyer meet with you at the appointed time? Is he or she prepared for the meeting? Are you given the opportunity to ask questions? Are those questions answered in language you can understand?
This is not to say that a lawyer needs to have a fancy office in a fancy building to be a good lawyer. Indeed, a fancy office may just be a sign that the lawyer spends money on material things that make it appear that he or she is knowledgeable and successful when the reality is quite different. That being said, the appearance of a lawyer’s office says something about the lawyer.
Many lawyers offer to visit with you at your home or even if the hospital if your circumstances are such that you cannot come to their office. This is often an offer made for your convenience, and should be viewed as such. However, unless you or a trusted loved one has researched the other factors on this list carefully before a home or hospital visit by a lawyer, most lawyers would recommend that you not to hire a lawyer simply because he or she advertises or offers to visit with you at your home or at the hospital.
You should also pay careful attention to whether and how the lawyer explains the law and what he or she will do to investigate your case. Your lawyer should be able to articulate the law to you in words you understand. If the lawyer cannot do so you should understandably question whether he or she will be able to articulate your position before a jury. You should ask the lawyer questions about anything you do not understand, and if the lawyer will not take the time to answer your questions, or does an inadequate job of answering them, you need to be concerned. Communication is a key part of the attorney-client relationship, and a lawyer who cannot communicate effectively at the initial client meeting may have difficulty communicating with you as the case progresses and difficulty communicating with a judge or jury.
You should also be very wary of a lawyer who offers only positive thoughts about your case. This is a difficult thing for some people to understand, but excellent lawyers strive to be objective during their conversations with their clients. That is, the best lawyers understand that it is their job to learn, evaluate and communicate the strengths and weaknesses of every case, and not just tell the client or potential client what they want to hear. Almost every case has a weakness, and the lawyer should be able to articulate those the weaknesses in a case very early based on the information that is available. You want to know about both the strengths and weaknesses of your case because both impact the value of your case. A lawyer who does not discuss case weaknesses either does not recognize them or is afraid of hurting the client’s feelings by having an open and honest discussion about the case. Excellent lawyers know that such conversations are an essential part of the attorney-client relationship, and know how to communicate their concerns without offending the client.
In summary, you want a lawyer who will be your effective advocate, but you also want one who can recognize and appropriate handle any negative aspects of your case. You also want a lawyer to tell you the truth about the positive and negative aspects of your case so that you have a full understanding of what is necessary to win your case and how any negative aspects of the case will affect your ability to do so. Finally, you want a lawyer who has compassion for your situation, the ability to communicate the law to you, and a professional appearance.
Want to learn more about what you should consider when trying to decide who you should hire as a Tennessee personal injury or wrongful death lawyer? Read out Legal Guide.