The Best Advice I’ve Ever Heard on How to Choose an Attorney

One weekend I found myself in a used bookstore in Bountiful. I came across a book titled, “All You Need to Know About the Music Business,” by Donald S. Passman. Passman is a music industry lawyer. The book is written as advice to musicians on how to master the business side of music. But, in the book, Passman talks about how to pick a “Team Member,” such as a manager, agent, attorney, etc. – in other words, the people you need to make a music act work and be profitable.

The advice Passman gave under this article was the best I have ever seen, and it applies equally to choosing an attorney. I recommend you seeing if you can pick up a copy of this book for the advice that Passman gives.

Our firm does free consults, so if you are looking for an attorney feel free to print out this page and follow this advice during that consult.

The first piece of advice is to, “Screen the Sharks.” He tells the client to meet the attorney in person. Watch their body language, meet their associates, see if they live in a cave. “Use your instincts to feel how they vibe you, and don’t be afraid to trust your gut.” “If you think you are meeting with a piece of slime, you probably are.”  “Charming crooks are the most dangerous.”

Get references and check them carefully.

Use your other team members. Get their input. In your case, your other “team members” might be accountants or family members. A word of caution, do not use someone a family member used just because that family member used them. Your case is bound to be different. Choose the attorney you want based on your needs and your budget. I’ve had potential clients tell me they regretted hiring some other attorney because, “my brother told me to use her.”

Look beyond the sales pitch. When you are interviewing a potential attorney, you are the most important thing in the world at that moment. All of the attorney’s attention is focused on you. Some attorneys “give good interview,” but are horrible once they actually take on the job. “Don’t be lulled by promises.” Attorneys will make promises in order to hook you in the first meeting. I will not do that. I will tell you whether I think you have a good argument or not, or whether it makes sense to pursue a particular strategy to try to achieve a certain result. No matter how good your attorney is, bad arguments are very likely to lose. Judges do not care how slick or conniving an attorney is. In fact, they know the slick and conniving attorneys and they don’t like them. You want to find an attorney that has credibility with the decision-maker.

There are not miracle worker attorneys. Success in law comes from “intelligent planning, solid work, and smart execution.”

Fees. Never hesitate to ask what someone is going to charge you.

Personality. Personality is not the most important part of your decision on which attorney to hire, but it is a consideration. You want someone who can stay cool under pressure, at least on the outside, instead of table pounding and jumping offsides every time the other side makes the slightest aggression. Perseverance wins, and firing off motions or hate-filled emails at every turn depletes your budget and your energy. Keep your powder dry for when bad behavior really matters – at trial.

Decide now, confirm later. Decide who to hire relatively quickly, but then make the attorney earn your trust by doing the things that are important to you, like responsiveness and timeliness. If they aren’t cutting it, cut them loose. There are too many attorneys in this state to fall for one that won’t get back to you within 24 hours. Our goal is to always get back to people within 24 hours, but usually within the business day.