Choosing your attorney for any legal situation is the single most important decision you can make to affect the outcome of your case. There is much conflicting information about attorneys that can make the choice very difficult.
The three most important criteria for choosing an attorney are:
- Is the attorney an expert in this specific area of law?
- Do I trust the attorney and the advice I receive?
- Can the attorney deliver results in the courtroom?
What you need to know about lawyers that no one else will tell you:
Law schools do not teach law students courtroom trial skills, even though trial skills are both teachable and learnable. Most people are shocked and have a hard time believing this, but it is true. Refusal to teach trial skills is a deliberate choice and a failure of American law schools.
A United States Supreme Court Justice went to England and observed their trial lawyers and was surprised at the quality and consistency of their work, especially compared to what he'd seen from American trial lawyers. He started a special committee in the 1970s to investigate why many American trial lawyers were so terrible. The committee found that it was primarily the fault of U.S. law schools: One hundred years prior, all the way back in 1870, Dean Langdell at Harvard Law School decided that skills training was unnecessary, then all the other law schools copied Harvard and eliminated any skills training.
The committee called this problem "Langdell's disease." Does that sound like a good thing?
Incredibly, today, nearly fifty years after that committee's findings, nothing has changed. Law schools still do not tell incoming students or current students that they will not be taught meaningful skills. Law schools actually lie to their graduates and tell them that they are ready to try cases simply because they finished law school, even though they were taught no useful skills in law school.
Our attorneys have acquired courtroom trial skills. We did it after law school. We have spent more time and money in skills training after law school than what was spent on law school. That single factor is what separates us from every other law firm in Oklahoma. No other law firm in Oklahoma can match our commitment to continued professional development and staying on the cutting edge of trial skills and legal developments.
As a result of our ongoing skills training, we have codified, literally written down, our process for handling cases, preparing them for settlement, and taking them to trial. We focus on what matters, and no matter which attorney in the office is working with a client, the client receives a uniform experience because we have a written process that is based on, and focused on, obtaining the best result for the client.
Why hire a trial lawyer if you think your case will be resolved and settled by agreement?
The legal community is a small community. Most of us know each other. We definitely know who is capable of handling a case in trial and who is not. This does not justify underestimating any opponent, but some attorneys try bully tactics and try to take advantage of the other side if they do not believe the other side is willing or able to call their bluff and present the case well at trial. The Oklahoma legal community knows that we are not afraid of trial and that we are good at trial.
We settle cases and we try cases. We settle cases for good outcomes for our clients because we prepare for trial. If the other side is unreasonable, uncooperative or a bully, we are able to keep moving the case forward with or without their participation because we know how to do it.
Family law is fact-specific. Judges have very broad discretion when making decisions about divorce or child custody cases. There is generally a great deal of distrust between divorcing spouses or opposing parents. False or exaggerated allegations are frequent. All this contributes to uncertainty for any family law case. You may be on the way to a settlement, a complete agreement, then the other side hires a new lawyer and announces that all deals are off. By preparing for trial with a lawyer who knows how to try a case, you may still maximize your chance of a good settlement while remaining prepared for trial in the event a trial is necessary, even if you are not the one who made the trial necessary.
If you are interviewing with an attorney, ask the attorney about their skills training. Most attorneys will either mention their law school or they will talk about their experience. Ask yourself, how much does experience matter? Do you know of a mechanic who has been around for 20 years but you would never take your car to them? Do you know of a restaurant that has been open for 20 years but you would never eat there? Do you know of a hotel that has been open for 20 years but you would never stay there? Experience has some value -- you don't want the lawyer to learn hard lessons at your expense -- but there are plenty of "experienced" attorneys who have no idea what they're doing in the courtroom. Ask the attorney about their process. Do they have a manual or a written procedure for how a case should be handled? Why not?
Our skills training includes:
- National College of Criminal Defense for cross-examination
- National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for cross-examination, jury selection and defending against sex crime allegations
- Association of Family and Conciliation Courts for presenting mental health evidence for parents and children
- American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers for valuing businesses and scrutinizing financial records
- National Institute for Trial Advocacy for depositions
- Trial Lawyers College for jury selection
- National Family Law Trial Institute for trying divorce and family law cases and for valuing businesses
We combine our trial skills with cutting-edge knowledge of law applicable to family law issues. Have you ever seen a photo of an attorney standing in front of a bunch of boring law books that all look the same? We have a real library full of books and DVDs to add to our knowledge and trial skills. We have DVDs to watch with our clients to help them prepare to testify in deposition and trial, and we have books that clients can borrow to read to learn how to testify well. Our work with the organizations listed above includes aggressive continuing education on state, national and international developments in family law policy and practice.
Your Lawyer is a Reflection of You
You hire a lawyer for legal advice and for representation and advocacy on your behalf. Your lawyer is an extension of yourself. When your lawyer speaks while working for you, the words of your lawyer are attributed to you. What your lawyer does for you and your situation will directly impact the outcome.
- If you hire a lawyer for an appeal and the lawyer does not send the papers in at the right time or does not include the proper filing fee, you will lose your right to appeal and you will not be able to get more time because your lawyer messed up.
- If your lawyer does not make a proper objection at trial and the case is lost because of bad evidence, you will not be able to challenge the evidence on appeal because you claim that your lawyer made a mistake.
- If your lawyer makes a poor, unplanned opening statement, the judge may enter judgment against you after opening statement without even having a trial, and there will be nothing you can do about it.
- If your lawyer is disrespectful to the judge and to the other lawyer and mistreats and bullies witnesses, the judge and the jury will view you with disdain, because your lawyer is behaving that way as your agent and his sloppiness and unprofessionalism will be your sloppiness and unprofessionalism.
A good lawyer who works with you on identifying your goals and best outcome can be a positive force for you in every aspect of your situation. A good lawyer who has training and experience can help you prepare for worst-case scenarios and can help you improve your situation. A good lawyer can be a representation of you at your very best while dealing with other people during negotiations, preparation, trial and appeal.
All this is why the Oklahoma Supreme Court said that lawyers are not interchangeable commodities. Your decision and choice of a lawyer will have a profound effect on the outcome of your situation. A good lawyer may have a higher rate than a poor lawyer, but a good, experienced lawyer may be more efficient and effective with your dollars than a lawyer who charges much less. It has been said that "Nothing is more expensive than a cheap lawyer."
Find Out More
If you want to learn more, contact us to schedule a meeting. Our initial consultations are more than a meet-and-greet. We will listen to you about your situation and your goals, and we will start the discussion about making a winning plan.