Help! How Do I Choose the "Right" Lawyer?

Choosing a lawyer can be extremely stressful. It’s not something that we do everyday.

At its best, you’re selecting someone who is going to help you through all the nitty gritty of an exciting time - buying a home, for example - but even that acknowledges that there is a fair amount of turbulence to get through. 

For others, though, you find that you’ve fallen into a situation where money, reputation and integrity are at stake, and a disagreement has reached such proportions that you and the other litigant are unable to solve the problem on your own. 

At its very worst, your freedom is at stake, and you are choosing your advocate upon whom the entire rest of your life depends. Even we in the field understand that “Hooray, we have to call a lawyer.” isn’t a phrase that gets a substantial amount of usage. 

So you have to choose a lawyer? What are the things that you should consider?

Reputation

A legal practice functions in a world of black robes and spirited argument, where everybody knows everybody, and everybody knows what everybody did last week. Our friends in the office of the Crown Prosecutor will have formed opinions of the defence lawyers with whom they work over the course of their careers. If your counsel has a strong, professional working relationship with Crown counsel, based on years of respect and mutual honest conduct, your counsel may be more able to deliver a result that works for you. 

A lawyer well known for preparing thoroughgoing and comprehensive briefing materials might get grilled less than one who is known to resort to specious stereotypes in lieu of legal or data driven research. A lawyer who is known for their adversarial nature in the courtroom may indeed be respected for their advocacy, provided their conduct outside the courtroom demonstrates that they are worthy of their peers esteem. 

How to do it?

Punch your prospective lawyers name into Google News, and read the first three articles that come up. This should help you get a feeling for the public persona that your advocate has been able to tend during the course of their career. 

Ethics

It pains us to say it, but there are lawyers out in the firmament that, regrettably, have been known to dip below the appropriate but stringent ethical requirements established by their fellow lawyers. The kind of lawyer that has breached ethics with one of their clients in the past is the kind of lawyer most likely to do the same in the future. 

Now, just because a lawyer is willing to defend you of a criminal charge does not make them unethical. Our system of justice demands that there be a strong advocate on each side, arguing the points that are available to them. Your lawyer can’t, for example, mislead the court in any matter - which means they’re not going to lie for you to the judge. If a lawyer is found contravening that, one of their most sacred responsibilities as an Officer of the Court, who’s to say that they are not breaching their duty of honesty and candour in conversations with you?

How to do it?

The Law Society of British Columbia keeps track of all the disciplinary actions against lawyers. Plug your perspective lawyers name into the records of those hearings and skim the summaries. They should give you some idea as to how closely your barrister bends to the rules of the profession. 

Values

This underrated aspect of choosing a lawyer is not one that you should overlook. Your lawyer should not make you feel intimidated or scared, should not bully you, or seek to confuse you with buzzwords and legalese. They should also understand and share your values, because a person who shares your perspective on what is important and valuable in life will have an easier time understanding what you want, how you want to get there, your lines in the sand, and what you are willing to give away in order to get what you want. 

How to do it?

Have a conversation with your lawyer. Ask them explicitly what they think of your problems, and tell them what is important to you. See if they understand, or if they immediately launch off into a discussion of “What you really want…”. 

If you’re feeling especially keen, punch your prospective lawyer’s name into CanLII, the national legal information database. See if their name comes up as a party to any actions - those will be the most interesting and informative. Then check if their name is mentioned anywhere else in the text, such as as counsel, and see what kind of cases they fought, and on which side. 

What do I do when I have a lawyer I don’t like?

Sometimes you will suffer a breakdown in lawyer-client relations. When these things happen, don’t panic. Let your lawyer know that you want to seek other representation, and when you do, bring your old lawyers card, and any information they returned to you along with you. 

You are still expected to settle your accounts with your old lawyer. They’ve been doing work behind the scenes, far more than what you might have seen in court. 

Communication is key - understanding what your lawyer is doing on your behalf, providing them with clear and unequivocal instructions, and responsiveness to inquiries is how you can work to ensure that your relationship with your lawyer remains positive.

Choose Wisely

Do some research when choosing your representative. You deserve to know who they are, and what type of advocate they’ll be on your behalf. After all, you’re putting a lot in your hands.

Your legal representative will be at their most effective in delivering the results that you need when they understand who you are, what motivates you, and the results that you want them to deliver.  They should have the time to talk to you and to work with you.

At Sarah Leamon law Group, we pride ourselves on putting our clients first. We care about our clients. We are a low-barrier, LGBTQ+ friendly, women-led space where people can feel empowered at a time when you need it most. We are skilled at collaborative law and negotiation and have secured excellent results for clients using this method in high-profile, difficult cases…but when push comes to shove, we are not afraid to fearlessly advocate for our clients in court either. We know that your case is important.

We are here to help.

To schedule a free consultation with one of the lawyers at Sarah Leamon Law, call 604-900-9211 or e-mail help@sarahleamonlaw.com today.


Sarah Leamon