RD.COM Knowledge Facts
Lauren CahnUpdated: Nov. 27, 2022
Got a dispute? A divorce? A potentially lucrative deal? Read these insider tips before you think about calling a lawyer.
When should you hire a lawyer?
When disputes arise, a person’s first inclination is often to call a lawyer, attorney Randolph Rice tells Reader’s Digest. But there are many situations in which hiring a lawyer is the last thing you should do. Says Rice, ideally, everyone would resolve disputes without lawyering up. “Getting lawyers involved can escalate tensions and delay resolution, all at great time and expense.” Take it from an attorney—before hiring one, consider if there are other ways to resolve your dispute. Maybe start by checking out these hilarious lawyer jokes.
Before hiring a lawyer
“When you have a dispute with someone, the first thing a lawyer does is send a demand letter hoping to resolve the dispute,” explains attorney, Russell D. Knight. On reading a demand letter, the other person will often say, “this isn’t worth the trouble” and they quickly settle. But here’s a secret from Knight: You don’t need a lawyer to write a demand letter. You can do it yourself. Just make it look as formal as possible, and you may find your dispute goes away—no charge to you.
How to tell a good lawyer from a bad lawyer
It’s not as hard as you might think, according to attorneyRandall M. Kessler, author of Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids and Your Future. “Shop around and trust your instincts,” he advises. “Does the lawyer listen to you? Do they explain things in a way you can understand? And are they willing to discuss fees and costs? The person you hire will need to be someone you trust and believe in, so be sure you feel very good about them from the start.”
What others think about your lawyer matters
Check your potential lawyer’s reputation. “Many cases are won, and lost, on the reputations of the lawyers involved,” attorney Rice tells Reader’s Digest. “In the courtroom, if your lawyer has an outstanding reputation, the judge may give your case some deference, for example.” Outside the courtroom, your lawyer’s reputation could color the way the attorneys on the other side respond to requests for information and offers to negotiate.
“See you in court” is a bit misleading
In choosing your attorney and your plan of action in resolving a dispute, it’s important to consider that despite what you see on television, most cases never see the inside of a courtroom. Typically, they’re settled outside the courtroom because of the time and expense involved, according to attorneyDarren Heitner, author of How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know.
Don’t miss the 22 funniest court cases of all time.
Warehouse of Images/Shutterstock
In fact, a lawyer should try to stay out of court
“In my experience, a good lawyer always finds every opportunity to keep a case from being decided by a judge, and only relents on trying a case before the bench when all alternatives have been exhausted,” attorney, Jason Cruz says. “If a lawyer suggests they want to try the case in front of a judge, you should definitely speak with another lawyer before proceeding,”
Be honest, expect honesty
It’s imperative that both the lawyer and the client approach one another with complete honesty, attorneyPaul Edelstein, tells Reader’s Digest. “Winning cases can be lost because of a client who lies or exaggerates just as easily as because of a lawyer who tells the client what the client wants to hear instead of what is true.” So when dealing with attorneys, don’t just look for honesty—be honest.
Be prepared for your meetings
“If you want to improve your chances of securing the best lawyer to take your case, you need to prepare before you meet them,” advises attorney Stephen Babcock. “Get your story, facts, and proof together well before your first meeting.” This not only ensures that you understand your own needs, but it helps a good lawyer to ascertain whether he or she can actually help you. “We want the best clients too. Proving you’re organized and reliable helps us.”
Make sure you’re not seeking a brain surgeon for a foot injury
“Many people assume that any lawyer can handle any problem,” attorney Jory Lange points out to Reader’s Digest. But like doctors, lawyers have specialties, and that’s where their talents and experience lie. “When you choose a lawyer, make sure they have experience with your type of case,” Lange advises.
Don’t hire an “attack dog” as your divorce attorney
When choosing whom to hire, not only should your lawyer’s practice specialty come into play, but so should your lawyer’s personal style, points out Lara Bazelon, Associate Professor of Law and director of the Criminal Juvenile Justice and Racial Justice Clinical Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law. For example, most divorces can be handled using online forms and mediation, she explains. If you involve “lawyers prone to adversarial stances,” things will get much uglier—and much more expensive.
Here’s how to find the best divorce lawyer for your situation.
The fuzzy side to billable hours
Many lawyers charge “per hour,” but when it comes to billable hours, an hour isn’t always an hour, Robinson points out. What if you talk to your lawyer on the phone for 30 seconds? Will your lawyer bill you for a full hour? A 15-minute segment? Or something closer to 30 seconds? These are the questions you should be asking, says Robinson, because it can make a huge difference in your bill.
Expenses add up
When hiring an attorney, a potential money pit is “expenses” outside of the lawyer’s billable hours. Expenses include everything—copying and faxing costs, hiring expert witnesses, and even traveling via private jet, points out attorney Justin C. Roberts. Some lawyers don’t just pass the charges along; instead, they charge an additional percentage fee. Whatever their method, you need to know it up front so there won’t be any surprises when the bill arrives.
Think twice about “good deals”
“Be wary of lawyers who quote low fees—noticeably lower than the standard—in order to get your business,” advises attorney Nathaniel Pitoniak. “Consumers should use their instincts about the work ethic, honesty, and relevant experience of a lawyer instead of making their decision on percentage points. If a lawyer’s fee sounds too good to be true, it’s likely because they struggle to retain business or don’t anticipate putting much effort towards your case—both are bad for someone who needs a strong lawyer.”
Insurance denials are appealable
If you feel helpless when faced with an insurance denial, please know that you might be able to appeal with the help of a qualified lawyer, says David Himelfarb, attorney. Insurance companies routinely deny long-term disability claims, for example, particularly because it’s assumed that most people don’t have access to reputable attorneys to challenge the denial. “This is where intricate knowledge of the legal and insurance process, as well as the right team of experts to prove the claim, can reverse the odds.”
Did you know these 13 everyday things can get you sued?
Originally Published: November 20, 2018
Lauren Cahn is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest and in a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction, and her first full-length manuscript, "The Trust Game," was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.
- My case will be easy money for you. ...
- I have already done the work for you. ...
- I forgot I had an appointment. ...
- I've already talked to a lot of other lawyers. ...
- I don't have all my documents.
A client should always feel comfortable telling their attorney the whole truth of the matter for which they are being represented. Any communications that take place with the purpose of securing assistance in a legal proceeding, legal services, or securing a legal opinion are protected.Are lawyers allowed to tell your secrets? ›
lawyer-client relationship of trust and prevents a lawyer from revealing the client's information even when not subjected to such compulsion. Thus, a lawyer may not reveal such information except with the informed consent* of the client or as authorized or required by the State Bar Act, these rules, or other law.What is the most common complaint against lawyers? ›
- Lack of communication.
- Scope of representation.
- Fee disputes/Excessive fees.
When an attorney ignores their client's wishes, this is considered legal malpractice in many cases. For example, when an attorney ignores their client's wishes and decides to settle their client's claim without their permission, this is considered legal malpractice.Do lawyers believe their clients? ›
Defense lawyers are ethically bound to zealously represent all clients, including those they believe will justly be found guilty, as well as those they believe are factually innocent.Do lawyers have to keep everything a secret? ›
The attorney-client privilege protects only communications, not facts. Clients cannot hide facts by telling them to their lawyers. What is privileged is the content of the communications between the clients and their lawyers. What clients say or write to their lawyers is privileged.Are you supposed to be completely honest with your lawyer? ›
Being honest with your attorney is crucial to your case. Because of attorney-client privilege, anything you say to your attorney will stay between the two of you. Some things might be hard to admit to yourself, let alone someone else, but being dishonest with your lawyer will not only hurt you but also them.Can a lawyer purposely lose a case? ›
Lawyers are also required not to mislead the court, which means the lawyer would then have to contact the judge and/or opposing lawyer and give the case up immediately. It wouldn't be ethical to argue the case as if hoping to win while intending to lose.What is the law of telling secrets? ›
What is the crime of disclosure of secrets? The crime of discovery and disclosure of secrets is a criminal offense. Its objective is criminal disclosure of information relating to the private life of a person making himself known without his permission.
Yes. You can sue for Defamation of character, or Slander. But you have to prove the attack was specifically targeted at you. The accusation alone could cost you as well so I suggest if you're serious, consult an attorney.What is unethical attorney? ›
It refers to an attorney who aggressively and unscrupulously pursues accident victims. Directly soliciting accident victims or having a legal assistant or other employee do so is widely considered unethical because the injured person is in a vulnerable state. Attorneys should not have to come to you to gain business.What is unethical for a lawyer? ›
Attorney misconduct may include: conflict of interest, overbilling, refusing to represent a client for political or professional motives, false or misleading statements, knowingly accepting worthless lawsuits, hiding evidence, abandoning a client, failing to disclose all relevant facts, arguing a position while ...What is the most common reason for an attorney to be disciplined? ›
Professional misconduct is the most common reason for attorney discipline. Lawyers can also be disciplined for conduct in their personal lives.How do you impress a judge in court? ›
- Know the judge.
- Be organized with your paperwork.
- Dress Appropriately.
- Stay calm in front of the jury.
- Keep eye contact with the jury.
- Don't be late to court.
The best colors to wear to court are conservative colors (e.g., white, light or dark gray, navy, dark blue, etc.) and avoid bright and loud colors. Make sure the color of your belt matches the color of your dress shoes.Can your words be used against you in court? ›
The following is the standard Miranda warning: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning.Does the lawyer have to listen to the client? ›
Lawyer-client communication is essential to the success of any legal case. By taking the time to listen accurately to their clients, lawyers can better understand the situation and provide better representation.What is an example of a judge's conflict of interest? ›
Some of the most common examples of a conflict of interest that would lead an assigned judge to recuse themselves voluntarily include situations in which: They have a familial relationship to one of the attorneys involved in the case. They have a possible financial interest in the result of the case.Can an attorney decline a client? ›
A lawyer may decline a client's case if there is a conflict of interest, such as when you agree to represent another party in the same case. In some situations, you may deny a case if it involves someone with whom you have a personal or professional relationship.
Lawyers owe numerous duties to their clients. One of those duties is loyalty, which is often thought of as preventing a lawyer from representing a client whose interests conflict with those of another client.What happens if a lawyer snitches? ›
The Client-Attorney Privilege
Your attorney cannot reveal anything you have said to law enforcement officials (or anyone else for that matter), and doing so would result in their disbarment. In other words, a lawyer who snitches on you would lose their license to practice law.
Often because they know me and trust me, or they trust someone who knows me and recommends me. Some people are hesitant knowing our personal relationship or that I overlap in community circles with them and/or their spouse. In short, we can represent people we know personally, and I'm not hesitant to represent them.Why do lawyers object to everything? ›
The primary reason an attorney makes an objection is to preserve his right to appeal if he loses the case.What is protected by attorney client privilege? ›
The privilege covers written and oral communications and protects both individual and institutional clients. The privilege extends from the attorney to include legal office staff that facilitates communications to and from the attorney.Can you pretend to have a lawyer? ›
This is misrepresentation, and every state has a way to punish this type of fraud. Even if a state does not have a specific statute to address the false practice of law, there are general deceptive trade practice statutes that can serve as a basis for criminal cases.What happens if you tell your lawyer the truth? ›
The attorney-client privilege law protects you
In fact, there are some things that you can confess to your lawyer without worry. For example, if you have committed a crime in the past, and you tell your lawyer about it, your lawyer can't be forced to testify against you in court.
- Advise and represent clients in courts, before government agencies, and in private legal matters.
- Communicate with their clients, colleagues, judges, and others involved in the case.
- Conduct research and analysis of legal problems.
- Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses.
Whether you are a plaintiff, a defendant, or a witness, the best thing you can do in any legal dispute is be rigorously honest.What if a lawyer knows his client is guilty? ›
When a lawyer has actual knowledge that a client has committed perjury or submitted false evidence, the lawyer's first duty is to remonstrate with the client in an effort to convince the client to voluntarily correct the perjured testimony or false evidence.
The four types of secrets are sweet, essential, toxic and dangerous. Galvin, Braithwaite, & Bylund (2015) describe sweet secrets as those that protect fun surprises and they are time limited. Essential secrets tend to foster closeness, and toxic secrets are labeled as poisonous.What are the three types of secrets? ›
There are three kinds of secrets: natural, promised, and entrusted. This is a broad division and various subdivisions might be introduced under each class. But these subdivisions have no particular moral relevance except under the third class of entrusted secrets.What do you call a person who hides secrets? ›
Some common synonyms of secretive are reserved, reticent, silent, and taciturn.Can I sue someone for spreading lies about me? ›
A slander lawsuit is a lawsuit you can file after someone defames you. Defamation occurs when someone makes a false statement of fact to a third party and causes you harm as a result. Defamation is a tort, which means it is a civil wrong, so you can file suit to obtain monetary damages from the person who committed it.Can I sue someone for gossiping about me? ›
If someone makes false statements against you and damages your career, personal life, and public reputation, you have the legal right to file a slander lawsuit.What are the 5 elements of defamation? ›
- A statement of fact. Of course, for defamation to have occurred, somebody must have made the statement that is considered defamatory. ...
- A published statement. ...
- The statement caused injury. ...
- The statement must be false. ...
- The statement is not privileged. ...
- Getting legal advice.
shyster. noununscrupulous lawyer; swindler.What is an example of legal but unethical behavior? ›
Answer and Explanation: An example of something that is legal but unethical is paying employees minimum wage without any increase over time, which leads to them struggling to manage their living expenses. An example of something illegal but ethical is driving over the speed limit.What is it called when a lawyer messes up? ›
Any time an attorney fails to meet the expected standards of his or her profession, their clients could take legal actions against them for what is called “legal malpractice.”What are examples of ethics violations? ›
Ethics violations such as discrimination, safety violations, poor working conditions and releasing proprietary information are other examples. Situations such as bribery, forgery and theft, while certainly ethically improper, cross over into criminal activity and are often dealt with outside the company.
When clinicians leave a caseload without coverage by an appropriately qualified professional, it is called client abandonment.What is the number one reason lawyers leave their practice? ›
Even worse than the long hours, in many cases, is the lack of control over your work and your schedule as an attorney. When you're subject to the whims of the court, the partners or other senior lawyers you work for, and client demands, the lack of control can become highly frustrating. This is why many lawyers leave.What are three ways attorneys might commit ethical incompetence? ›
- The attorney failed to communicate with the client. ...
- The attorney has failed to return important documents to the client. ...
- The attorney demonstrated incompetence. ...
- Conflicts of interest were apparent. ...
- Financial discrepancy was apparent.
In law, a conflict of interest arises between an attorney and a client if the interests of the attorney, a different client, or a third-party conflict with the interests of the present client. Attorneys have a duty to zealously represent the interests of their client(s).Do you have to be honest to your lawyer? ›
Being honest with your attorney is crucial to your case. Because of attorney-client privilege, anything you say to your attorney will stay between the two of you. Some things might be hard to admit to yourself, let alone someone else, but being dishonest with your lawyer will not only hurt you but also them.Does your attorney talk for you? ›
Can My Lawyer Speak for Me in Court? Yes. The purpose of hiring a lawyer is so that you do not have to represent yourself in court. A criminal defense attorney will research facts, investigate the case, and negotiate deals with prosecutors.Do lawyers tell you what you want to hear? ›
Often lawyers tell clients what clients want to hear. They do this in order to be liked and in order to get or keep business.Should I always listen to my lawyer? ›
At the same time, it is vital that the attorney be accessible and empathetic to the concerns of the client. Ultimately, the client does have to follow the professional advice of their attorney on case strategy. If the attorney and client cannot stay on the same page, the results can become disastrous.Can a lawyer know you did the crime? ›
The attorney-client privilege rule ensures confidentiality and prohibits your lawyer from divulging what you've told them to anyone outside your legal team without your consent.Do lawyers have to listen to their clients? ›
Many clients and even some lawyers are surprised to learn that lawyers often do not need to follow client directions, and in some instances lawyers are prohibited from listening to clients, or commit legal malpractice when they do.
In order for you to determine if a lawyer is good or not, consider their communication skills, their ability to meet deadlines, whether they are making promises they can't keep, their work atmosphere and their billing practices. If the lawyer is posing any red flags in those areas, then they are not your best option.Why do lawyers whisper in court? ›
Lawyer whisperers often accompany lawyers to mediation or trial as a “second chair” or “associate” and use such operative conditioning under the table to assure successful trial or case presentation. Most lawyer whisperers emphasize the use of groundwork to establish boundaries and set up communication with the lawyer.Are lawyers honest with their clients? ›
 A lawyer is required to be truthful when dealing with others on a client's behalf, but generally has no affirmative duty to inform an opposing party of relevant facts.