Top 6 Telltale Signs You Hired a Bad Lawyer and How to Avoid it in the Future
According to the American Bar Association, attorneys have between a 4% to 17% chance of being sued for malpractice. Legal malpractice consists of negligence that is so egregious that it causes a client significant and provable harm. The attorney you hired may not be committing malpractice, but that does not mean they are good at their job.
When you need an attorney, whether it is to help settle a divorce or defend you against a charge of theft, you need to feel confident that you hired a good lawyer. We want to help you identify a bad lawyer so that you can avoid making a crucial mistake when you need legal guidance.
Signs of a Bad Lawyer
You should feel like your attorney is on your side and fighting to make sure your rights are protected. When you need an attorney, the chances are good that it is a difficult time in your life, and the last thing you need is to feel like you have to fight with your legal counsel to get the representation you deserve.
Watch out for, and avoid when possible, attorneys who are:
Communication is normal to have questions about your case. Good attorneys should regularly communicate what is going on with your case. Lawyers should display a willingness to answer our questions. If you are battling for the custody of your children’s custody or struggling because you are not receiving child support, you need an attorney who will keep you apprised of every step of the process.
If you continuously struggle to contact your lawyer, and they often do not return phone calls and messages, it is a bad sign. Yes, attorneys get busy, but that is no excuse for ignoring their other clients. Your attorney’s office should have staff that can answer your questions or schedule appointments or phone calls where the attorney can talk with you.
Not Upfront and Honest About Billing
Your attorney needs to make money, and billing for their services is how they earn a living. While it can seem expensive to hire a lawyer, clients often are not aware of the overhead and behind-the-scenes work that goes into their cases. However, there is no excuse for unclear billing practices where you are slammed with unexpected legal costs.
Some common billing practices taken on by unethical or unprofessional lawyers include padding their time, vague billing practices that leave you unclear about what you are paying for, and adding surcharges to legal expenses. A respectable attorney will let you know upfront what to expect, discuss any additional charges that might arise, and have a clear and concise billing procedure that leaves no doubt about the services for which you are paying.
While it is true that you want an attorney that you feel like you can trust to get you the result you want, any attorney who promises you a specific result should be a huge red flag. The legal system is made up of many moving parts, and though a good attorney can offer you a reasonable idea of what to expect, no one can promise a specific result.
If your attorney is coming off like a used car salesman, be wary. You want an attorney who will fight for the best possible outcome, but the best of attorneys know they can never promise a positive outcome. You deserve an attorney who is honest with you, even if the truth hurts.
While the first three items are signs that you do not have a good attorney, on this one we start to move into things that could begin to move toward unethical or illegal actions that can reach to malpractice.
Your lawyer’s actions can have a substantial negative impact on your case, especially if they cross the line into unethical or illegal behavior. You may want to win your case, but if your attorney is breaking the law or lying to help you do so, then you are both at risk of serious consequences. Unprofessional or unethical behavior can include:
- Arriving late or failing to show up for important meetings, or missing court dates
- Making decisions of importance about your case without discussing it with you first
- Missing filing deadlines, filing paperwork incorrectly or filing the wrong paperwork with the court
- Refusing to return your calls or messages within a reasonable timeframe
- Knowing there is a conflict of interest in your case, but proceeding despite the ethical problem
If you’re at all concerned that your attorney is unprofessional, it might be time to reconsider your choice of counsel.
Not Empathetic or Compassionate to Your Needs
You deserve an attorney who empathizes with what you are going through. If an attorney does not have empathy or compassion for your situation, they are not who you want to negotiate with an insurance company or have present your case to a jury. If they cannot spare compassion for you, how can you trust that they can adequately convince a judge, jury, or another party to feel what they do not?
In the legal arena, attorneys start at the bottom and work their way up. If there is a lack of professional respect for your attorney, whether it is former clients, in the courtroom, or with their peers, it should be a red flag.
If your case involves mediation, pay close attention to how the other professionals react to your attorney. You should be able to tell whether they grant them professional courtesy and respect, or feel disdain. These people have worked closely with your attorney, and if they do not have respect for them, you should be alarmed and consider finding another attorney as soon as possible.
Most of the time, finding a lawyer means there is a significant stressor in your life. Making important decisions like which attorney to use, while already under stress, can seem impossible. Hopefully, this guide will make the process somewhat less daunting. You might worry that changing lawyers during a case could hurt your claim overall, but it will not do as much damage as sticking with a lawyer you do not trust.