Hiring a NY Lawyer or Law Firm in New York: Due Diligence of NY Attorneys

Hiring a NY lawyer can be stressful. I have hired many associate and senior lawyers for my firm and a large international law firm I worked with. I find the vetting of lawyers requires high-level interview skills and a lot of instincts. In many cases, it is more art than since. I find that a short contact is, often, not adequate to determine if the lawyer is right for your needs. While hiring a New York lawyer is hard for law firms, I can’t even imagine how hard it is for those with no experience with lawyers and especially New York Lawyers (a totally different breed of lawyer). I am writing this post in reaction to some horror stories I have heard of and, recently, witnessed. I shall share that story, for another day.

Top 10 Things to Consider before Retaining a New York Attorney or Law Firm in NY

  1. Good Office Condition

A struggling lawyer, often, neglects more than just bills. Struggling lawyers, in many cases, are unable to handle matters in an effective manner. An office with old/cheap furniture and tattered rugs is a sign of a firm that may be in financial troubles. A lawyer in New York in financial trouble may lead to financial troubles for you.

2. Great Organizational Skills

An efficient and effective lawyer in NY, in all but the most exceptional of instances, is a lawyer that is organized. Check the office of the New York lawyer. If the office is strewn with unorganized fills, folders, pens and paper, you, likely, don’t have an organized lawyer.

3. Good Team Player

In complex matters, in most cases, working in teams is essential for success. Many lawyers in firms big and small have no experience working effectively in teams. Your, NY lawyer is, likely, not effective in teams if he has no case management system, no CMS, no phone call booking engine, has an outdated website and seems to be difficult to get in contact with. Those that work effectively in teams, have systems in place to make the team work in an effective and efficient manner.

4. High-Level Experience & Reputation

Experience and reputation matters. Ranking services for lawyers, usually, are not so useful. Many of these rankings are pay-to-play rankings and, thus, do not adequately represent experience and reputation. However, AVVO does a decent job in analyzing the experience and reputation of lawyers via an algorithm, but AVVO is far from perfect. Please do your due diligence and search online for as much as you can find on the lawyer.

5. Good Manners & Disposition

Be comfortable with your NY attorney. Lawyers are in the service business, if your lawyer does not have a disposition that allows you to trust, respect or believe the lawyer, likely, other people feel the same, thus, this lawyer may not have a good reputation in the community. Additionally, if you hate your lawyer, I bet the lawyer hates you. You can find many good lawyers, find one that you can like for your own mental health.

6. Lawyer, Not Preacher

You want a NY attorney that asks questions and listens. A lawyer that preaches, pitches and blabbers on for hours shall, likely, never care for the needs of the client and shall, likely, not fully delve into your case. Make sure your lawyer cares about the details of the case. Of course, a lawyer shall be unable to understand the full nature of your case in a mere initial consultation.

7. Busy, But Not Too Busy

In most cases, you need a NY lawyer with adequate time to work on your case. If your lawyer has too many cases, he/she may be too burdened to do the work necessary to succeed. You can tell if your lawyer is too busy, often, by his manners, disposition, organization of his office and how easy it is to contact the attorney. Additionally, if the lawyer is not able to spend the time to talk with you, learn about the matter, ask questions and proactively consider options, you may never be able to get the attorney to provide the time necessary to handle the matter. This is a major risk. Too many lawyers are too busy to even think.

8. Broad Experience

In some novel (new), complex, new tech and new economy matters, lawyers with too specific experience in, only, one area of law may not be adequate for your needs. Many lawyers that primarily specialize in a specific area of law, often, do not have the general NY legal experience necessary to handle a novel, complex, cutting-edge tech and/or new economy matter, because of lack of experience. Often, attorneys, in New York, with broad-based experience are capable of thinking outside of the box, in these type cases, often this skill is essential.

9. Proactive

A proactive NY lawyer is, often, proactive with clients, the courts, counter parties and opposing counsel. Your lawyer should be chasing you, you should not be chasing the lawyer. If you are chasing a lawyer for an appointment, the attorney, likely, has no systems in place to confirm meetings. If your attorney does not send a message after your meeting, you, likely, do not have a proactive attorney in NY. If you are chasing a lawyer prior to engagement, you shall, likely, be chasing a lawyer after the engagement.

10. Trustworthy & Ethical

I regret to have to say this, but yes the legal profession has its share of untrustworthy and unethical lawyers. Just because the lawyer has not been reported to the bar, does not mean the lawyer is ethical. Talk to the lawyer and probe. Often, you can judge ethics by the focus of the New York attorney. If the focus of the attorney seems to be solely on money, this is, often, a sign of ethical issues. In many cases, this is the most important issue, but the hardest to judge. For a post on hiring a NY business lawyer please see: Hiring a NY Business Lawyer.

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