What makes an attorney a good attorney?

I was on the phone the other day with a prospective client.  We discussed in detail the particulars of the case at hand.  I asked if I could answer any questions before we got off the phone.  The prospective client asked something very point blank, “Sir, are you a good attorney?”  A thousand thoughts ran through my mind about how I could answer.  I have passed the bar, that is how the state determines if I am a competent attorney.  I have helped numerous clients settle cases in the specific area the client needed help in.  I have had trials in the area in which the client needed help in.  But do those really make a good attorney?  For the next few days my mind felt like a hamster running on a wheel trying to find out the right answer.  I believe a good lawyer is three things: honest, straight forward, and will fight for the right reasons.

               Honesty is important in a lawyer.  Clients place crucial moments of their lives into the hands of their attorney.  They expect us to tell them the right answer, even though the client has to make the decision.  A lawyer should always tell you how good a case they believe you have.  An attorney who has seen all of the evidence that will likely be presented at a trial, should be able to tell you what the odds are of you getting the result you want.  And they should absolutely tell you those odds.  It isn’t easy telling a client, “There is a very small chance you will get the outcome you want.”  People don’t want to pay an attorney to lose, and we need clients to pay us so we can pay the bills.  But if an attorney isn’t honest with you, even just once, will you ever trust them again?  The answer is no, and this is why a good attorney must be honest with you.

               Another important quality of an attorney is being straight forward.  This is a lot like honesty, but attorneys can split hairs and I want to eliminate that.  Attorneys use phrases like “you have a good case or chance” when they know you only have a 51% chance of a favorable outcome, or worse it could go either way and they know it likely won’t come out in your favor Then they can rely on those words to explain away not getting the verdict the client wanted.  Attorneys need to be straight forward so clients can make the decision that is best for them.

               Lastly, is a good attorney fights for the right reasons.  This is important for me in different ways in family law and in criminal law.  In family law cases involving the children I follow the same rule the courts follow; the best interest of the child.  When I look at a prospective case involving custody, I remove the parent’s feelings and look at the specific acts that are suspected and can be proven and ask myself “Do I genuinely believe this is best for this child?”  As a custody lawyer we are hired by parents, but really, we are fighting to protect the children.  If an attorney is chasing money and doesn’t really care what is best for the child, I don’t believe they are a good attorney.  I have turned clients away, because I did not believe what the parent wanted was in the best interest of the child. 

               In criminal law, attorneys fight for two things, protect people from having the government freely prosecute a person without evidence and trial and to be the voice for the client.  Any half decent attorney can make sure the government isn’t just freely sending people to jail without some checks and balances.  The American Bar Association requires law schools to teach criminal procedure which is the fundamental basic rights people have in the criminal justice system.  But advocating for a client goes beyond that.  I worked a case where a client was imprisoned for two years before his charges were dropped.  Several years later, another government agency filed charges again for the same crimes.  This client swore up and down he did not commit these crimes he was accused of.  Some said he should take a plea, but he swore again he didn’t do it.  I started reviewing evidence with a blank slate.  I told myself to look everything as a juror would and then render a verdict.  I worked over 400 hours on this case alone.  I came to the same conclusion the defendant had been screaming, not guilty.  I built a binder and laid it all out and showed his innocence to my bosses.  In the end, most of his charges were dropped and he took a plea for something he did do. 

My point is a good attorney will take an honest look at your case.  A good attorney lays out the facts in plain, straight-forward language to help the client make the best decision for the client and their family.  A good attorney will stand and fight for you, even when the odds seem insurmountable.  If you want an attorney who will be honest, straight forward, and fight to protect you and your rights, call Dobson Law Firm today for a free consultation at 919-591-2240.

10 thoughts on “What makes an attorney a good attorney?”

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