Author: Attorney Philip Adams
I have often been asked by prospective clients what they should expect from legal representation. Anyone seeking the advice of an attorney needs to ask this question to better understand how to select an attorney who can attempt to maximize the likelihood of obtaining a good result on behalf of the client. Commercials abound with attorneys who advertise services among their peers. Some of these attorneys may indeed offer good services. Some may not. Some lawyers also characterize themselves as being “aggressive” or “experienced.” However, being “aggressive” or “experienced” is just a small part of what it takes to attempt to be a successful attorney. In short, a highly skilled, humble, and disciplined fighter in a ring will almost always defeat a mindless, loud, and over-confident opponent. Beyond the fluff of television commercials and billboard ads, potential clients need to scrutinize a potential lawyer before making a monumental decision to hire someone who will often be tasked with making life-changing decisions on behalf of the client. I think a client has the right to expect an advocate to have all of the following skills:
• Legal Knowledge. Knowing the law in detail is an opportunity to gain an advantage in litigation and exploit issues to help a client. If you don’t know the rules (i.e., "the law"), you cannot possibly hope to have a chance of winning.
• Exceptional writing skills. Motions and briefs matter to judges. A well-written motion can mean the difference between a favorable or unfavorable ruling—a ruling that may destroy the opposition’s case. Words are the cardinal tools of persuasion that lawyers must use in persuading a judge to see things the lawyer’s way.
• Patience. An effective trial lawyer has to have patience—the patience to listen to a client, to find the relevant cases in support of a motion or brief, to re-read and analyze reports and evidence, and to deal with, at times, rude judges and opposing attorneys.
• Focus. Trying a case in a courtroom takes extreme focus. A lawyer must pay attention to his surroundings, including witness demeanor, inconsistencies in testimony, body language of jurors, the mindset of the judge, etc. A missed detail can often mean the difference between a successful outcome and an unsuccessful one.
• Integrity and honesty. These qualities cannot be faked for long. Developing trust with the client, with opposing counsel, with the judge, and with the jury is crucial. No lawyer, regardless of his or her skill level, can succeed for long without having integrity and honesty. Parties in the legal system instinctively know when a lawyer is being truthful. Distrusted lawyers have clients who may go to prison cells in criminal cases or who may walk home empty-handed after a negotiation in a civil case.
• Effective questioning skills. Good oratory, eloquence, and passion are the dessert. Cross-examination of witnesses is the main meal. Effective cross-examination can make or break a case. If the lawyer fails to discredit a witness or build a proper record, a motion hearing or trial can be lost. On the other hand, if the lawyer properly questions the testifying witness, he can weaken or outright destroy the opposition’s case.
• Tempered passion. Aggression and passion that are tempered by reason and perception form the foundation of attempted courtroom success.
• Charm and respect. Courtroom proceedings, and especially trials, can be tedious affairs. Jurors are often not allowed to talk, walk around, or hurry things. They’re trapped in a jury box. Many jurors may feel as if they’re being held hostage by the judge and the lawyers. Some jurors may even come to despise one or more lawyers. Additionally, the judge or opposing counsel may become irritated with a lawyer. The attorney who has a little charm, respect for those in the courtroom, and a sense of humor can ease tension and frustrations that may arise, better ensuring success on behalf of a client.
• Persistence and Resilience. A trial attorney deals with a lot of adversity in a courtroom. To be successful, an attorney needs to be able to deal with pressure and setbacks along the way. He must also possess a fighting and unbreakable spirit. If he doesn’t have these qualities, judges and opposing counsel will notice, possibly to the lawyer's detriment.
• Communication ability. To convince a judge or jury to see one’s perspective requires argument and words that bring a case alive. The client’s story must be told as part of a larger picture, and the lawyer who can convey his client’s story more effectively has a higher chance of obtaining a successful outcome.
At the Law Offices of Philip B. Adams, LLC, Mr. Adams and his staff pride themselves on daily working to hone their skills in each of the previously mentioned areas to try to deliver the best representation possible on behalf of clients. Our firm understands that success is never guaranteed in the legal system but believes that if we strive to improve ourselves in each of the previously mentioned areas, we may have a better chance of obtaining a successful outcome. Our firm does not seek to compete with other firms and attorneys but instead daily focuses on all of the previously mentioned qualities so that we can attempt to be a better law firm. Clients deserve nothing less. It is a privilege, not a right, to represent people who have legal issues. The law can best serve the ideal of maximizing justice within society when a lawyer and his support staff strive to live each of the previously mentioned values and skills. Our firm is committed to giving full effort on behalf of clients.