“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”
-Sun Tzu, the Art of War
You won’t see any images of screaming eagles, snarling pit bulls, or patriotic flags on my Law Office website. If you are smart enough to operate a computer and search the internet, you’re smart enough to know a sales pitch when you see one.
Back in the ’80s (guess I’m old!) , when I was in law school, the professors would explain how a “good lawyer” prepares a client’s case for trial. First, you hire a private investigator for $3000 to investigate the other side and dig up exculpatory evidence. Then, you hire a few experts for $3000 a piece….forensic experts for criminal law and custody evaluators for family law. Toss in a few lie detector tests to see who is telling the truth, and the case is ready for trial.
Now here is the problem. What I have just described is a $20,000 case. How many of you have that much money to spend on litigation? How many of you want to spend that much on your legal problem?
To make my point, a good lawyer learns that you have to be able to handle a case with the resources you have, not the resources you wish you had. In my practice, I have had to learn to cut corners, take risks and stretch my client’s budget. If you want to win, and not spend a fortune, then you have to know when to fight, how to fight, when to compromise, and when to settle. If you are having bad luck, you must know when to “fold your cards and walk away from the table.” Sometimes surviving to fight another day is a valid strategy.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN SELECTING AN ATTORNEY?
Choosing an attorney is similar to choosing a doctor. You want someone who you can talk to, someone who cares, someone who is going to listen to you and give you honest advise. However, like a doctor a lawyer should tell you the bad news as well as the good. A lawyer should tell you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not. Without an honest and realistic prognosis of your legal case, you will suffer from unrealistic expectations and make emotional rather than rational choices. This could lead to fatal errors. Lawyers, like doctors, should not be “yes” men. Your attorney should be able to address the four key questions of litigation: what are your goals, the odds of winning, with what strategy and options, and at what expense.
WHAT IS YOUR SALES PITCH?
I don’t have one. Typically, if you call ten attorneys, most of them will tell you that your case is “good.” That is because every case is a winner and every case is a loser. So the attorney is going to be optimistic. Besides, would you hire an attorney who said you had a bad case?
When you ask about the price or cost of your action, most lawyers will say costs vary. It depends on what happens, and how much work the case takes. The sales pitch concludes with, “lets start off with a $1500 retainer. I will fight like a rabid pit bull for you. I am the lawyer the other side does not want you to hire, etc. etc. etc.”
Of course, we both know what happens next.
You get the old “bait and switch.” Suddenly, the attorney is saying that there are problems with the case. Suddenly, the attorney is saying this case will cost triple what he quoted. Suddenly, you start getting bills for another $1500, then another $1500 and so on. What happened here is you fell for a sales pitch and were told some very unrealistic expectations as to price, strategy and the odds of winning. At this point, please call me for advice.