Since this is an Olympic year, and I see many members of Team USA receiving a gold, silver, bronze, or in some cases, no medals, I wonder: if we rated attorneys in the same manner, what medal would your attorney receive and on what would the criteria for his or her performance be based? In other words, what expectations can you have for how your attorney should perform for you?
Communication: Communication in any relationship is essential. Having an attorney respond to your questions or issues as they arise is a key factor. Having an attorney who responds within the same day or the next day in some way, whether it be through email, fax, phone call, or through another individual from their office, is a more than reasonable expectation.
More than just communicating, you should consider how the attorney is disseminating information. Are they explaining what is happening in your case thoroughly so that you understand it? If not, consider setting up a sit down meeting to go through the questions you have for your attorney.
Planning: Is your attorney reacting to problems as they arise or are they able to plan and strategize in advance? From the beginning you should have a clear plan that accounts for your goals and sets forth a timeline in which to accomplish those goals. So if, for instance, the goal is to complete the case in six months, the attorney should help figure out how that can be accomplished, be that in discovery, depositions, or whatever else needs to be accomplished in order to reach your goals.
Payment: Attorneys typically send out monthly billing statements that detail, in writing, the work completed and the cost. It is reasonable to expect to see monthly billing statements and to have your attorney respond to questions if they arise. Your attorney may in some cases provide a detailed fee breakdown of projected costs.
When you hire an attorney, it is reasonable to expect responsiveness, that your attorney will be prepared, and that the attorney will follow up with appropriate billing information. These criteria can help you assess whetheryour attorney deserve the gold.