What To Consider When Attorney Shopping

Hiring an attorney is a difficult decision.  Each attorney has a unique style, specialty, pricing, etc.  So, consulting with more than one attorney is often a good idea.  When it comes to attorney shopping, what should you look for?

I have some thoughts, distilled from experience dealing with potential clients:

Straight Shooter 

Sometimes people are disarmed to find that the attorney they consult with is blunt and pessimistic about the chances of success.  While an attorney is supposed to zealously fight for his client in court, this doesn’t mean the attorney needs to paint a rosy picture in confidential discussions with a potential client.  It is a good thing if an attorney is open and honest.  Be wary of an attorney that promises a given result.  Guarantees rarely exist in the law, specifically in family and criminal law, where I primarily practice.  You might disagree with the attorney’s opinion, but often the attorney is simply trying to set realistic expectations.  Realistic attorneys, that know what there’re up against, are better prepared to aggressively fight for you.  

Win-Loss Record

In family and criminal law especially, be wary of an attorney that touts his “win-loss record” or record of success.  What is their definition of a “win?”  Does that mean the attorney gets everything their client wants?  This doesn’t often happen in family law cases.  Does it mean the attorney got their client off/acquitted/the case dismissed?  This doesn’t often happen in criminal cases.  There are certainly attorneys that are very successful for their clients, but I would rely more on reviews and reputation, which also have pitfalls, than an attorney’s purported win-loss record.  

“Aggressive Attorney” 

Hiring an “aggressive attorney” is not wrong, but sometimes people confuse this term.  There is a difference between an aggressive attorney and an attorney who makes it their job to be a pain in the rear.   If your main criterion in hiring an attorney is how much they will yell and scream, and fight and argue, and be a pain, you may be happy with their demeanor but unhappy with the results. 

The most bombastic attorneys are not necessarily the most successful for their clients.   In family law or criminal law, settlement/pleas can lead to a more successful result than trial; aggressiveness can be self-defeating in some instances.  Also, over-aggression comes with a price at trial; if the evidence doesn’t match the aggression, you’ll have wished your attorney adopted a more reasonable, provable stance.   

A couple of quotes from Abraham Lincoln come to mind: 

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser—in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.” [1]

“In law it is good policy to never plead what you need not, lest you oblige yourself to prove what you can not.” [2]

The Issue of Fees 

Attorney’s fees are obviously a big issue in deciding who to hire.  In criminal cases, fees are often flat and non-refundable.  Most family law cases are billed by the hour.  So, you have to pay an attorney their hourly rate plus any expenses, like filing fees, subpoena fees, mediation fees, etc.  To secure this money, lawyers often charge an upfront retainer (more aptly called an advance fee).   But fees in a family law case are often hard to predict and thus retainers can vary wildly.  The facts of each case are different, so the amount of time needed is different.  Each opposing attorney is different.   Don’t be surprised if an attorney is very vague about how much a case could cost.  Do insist on understanding how the fee structure works.     


These tips will give you a good starting point when searching for the right attorney for your case.  TLC Law is ready to help you!  Give us a call today at 903.871.1714 to see how we can help with your case.


[1] The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Notes for a Law Lecture” (July 1, 1850), p. 81.
[2] The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume I, “Letter to Usher F. Linder” (February 20, 1848), p. 453.

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