Identifying high-end and low-end products is easy, but how do you separate a good attorney from one that isn’t as skilled?  How do you find someone excellent, when you aren’t familiar with the legal system?  Even though you likely haven’t had a chance to observe your potential attorney in a courtroom or in a negotiation, you can look for personal qualities and ask candidates you are considering about their expertise in these areas:  


  • Connections


Connections are extremely important, and you can ask your attorney about his or her professional contacts.  For example, if you case is criminal, you may benefit from an attorney who knows the prosecutor and who has appeared in front of your judge before.  Although those connections may not directly impact the outcome, as both prosecutor and judge are under obligation to be impartial, a personal relationship and experience with those people can help your attorney know the best approach and arguments to make to be compelling to those individuals.  Similarly, in a civil case, your attorney may be able to negotiate more effectively for you if he or she has a good professional relationship with the attorney on the other side.


  • Experience


With the exception of patent law, attorneys don’t get a license to practice in a specific area.  Their state license entitles them to practice any type of law.  Because they aren’t segregated into specialties by licensure, the differentiator between different types of attorneys when it comes to specialties is experience. An attorney who is fresh out of law school may have a lot of enthusiasm, but often you will be better served by someone who has practiced for many years.  You can’t underestimate the knowledge that can only be derived from years of doing something.


  • Research Abilities


Research skills are a hallmark of great attorneys.  Find someone who exhibits a genuine interest in all the aspects of your case.  You need someone who will listen and take careful notes as you explain the facts.  A good attorney will look to all the sources of information, whether that includes other witnesses, documents, emails, etc.  You will want someone who will have the tools and know-how to research any legal questions.  Most of all, you’ll want someone who can listen carefully and ask the right questions to fully vet your case.


  • Organizational Skills


You may be surprised to discover that organization skills are one of the most important attributes for an attorney to have, but planning and calendaring are actually essential.  Courts have specific hearing dates and deadlines which must be observed, so you will want someone who has a system to keep track of these dates and who will not procrastinate working on meeting those deadlines.  Some attorneys will request information from their clients at the last minute, which can be problematic.  In some cases, you will be providing your attorney with a variety of types of information and documents, and you need an attorney who is capable of organizing this disparate information into a cohesive defense.


  • Communication


An excellent attorney will be a great communicator.  He or she will be your mouthpiece to a judge, jury, or opposing party.  Your attorney will be the one to help create and tell your story.  You need someone who not only represents you well to others, but who also takes the time to communicate with you as often and as needed.  A common problem that crops up between attorneys and their clients is a breakdown in communication, so make sure you and your attorney speak up front about expectations on both sides for calls and emails and also the cost that will be anticipated with that level of communication.

If you look for an attorney with connections, experience, research abilities, organizational skills, and communication talents, you will likely be in good hands.