Over the years I have had clients tell me that they have been guided to me for legal services through some sign. I’m not sure if the guidance emanates from above or below, but I am pleased that I am on the radar of some otherworldly source. Quite often the client tells me that they have been unable to secure an answer to their legal questions until they found me. Although this is flattering, there are many lawyers in this area, and many us of have many answers and opinions.
Yet, many people seem to be unable to get the answers they need to their questions, and not all lawyers are always helpful or have the knowledge needed for a particular matter. As the legal field has become more and more specialized over the years, at least in urban areas, fewer and fewer lawyers know about many areas of the law, as used to be the case when lawyers were general practitioners. As I mentioned in one of my previous articles, more lawyers are representing themselves as “experts”, and indeed, clients expect them to be “experts” as that is what they are hearing through various advertising and media sources. But, lawyers should do their best about educating themselves minimally in other areas of the law, so they can at least determine if the client needs help beyond a narrow area of the law.
Below are 3 examples of experiences relayed to me by potential clients in seeking legal help:
1) A potential client, who had been injured on a bus, and was later incarcerated, asked me to review his file because his previous lawyer had decided not to represent him. This lawyer represents himself as an expert in personal injury matters and this lawyer’s name and photograph are plastered on the backs of many buses in town, on those sticky things that are placed on the front of telephone books, on TV, and who knows where else. Obviously this lawyer spends a fortune on advertising his expertise. Yet, I would never recommend anyone to him, because after 6 months of effort, including letters, telephone calls, and speaking with his staff, although never the lawyer, who never returned the messages I left for him, I finally received the file from the lawyer’s office. The client ultimately had to file a claim with the agency which disciplines lawyers who wrote to the lawyer, before the file, which I had been told was destroyed, was miraculously produced by the lawyer.
2) A potential client came to see me because she did not appear for a court hearing she was unaware took place. She had been sued by a credit card company. When she didn’t appear the credit card company received a judgment against her for almost $6,000. Although she petitioned the court to reopen the case, it was not approved, because it appeared that she had been properly served with notice of the lawsuit. Yet, when I pointed out that the service form was not completely filled out, she was not aware of this. When I asked her why she didn’t further appeal to a higher court she said she wasn’t aware she could, and she didn’t understand instructions on how to appeal, and even worse, she said she met with a lawyer and she wasn’t given the appeal information.
3) A potential client stated that he had a lawyer assist his family with having guardians appointed for his grandmother, but that lawyer had not provided any advice about how to handle the grandmother’s finances, or the repercussions of placing the grandmother in a nursing home, which triggered a foreclosure action against the grandmother by a mortgage company the family was not even aware had a mortgage on her property. He stated that he had been trying to elicit information from various sources for the better part of a year and he had not been given the right information.
Therefore, I suggest that people keep trying to get answers if they suspect that they aren’t getting the right advice, through calling local bar associations, which usually have a referral service, or other means. It is also very important to give the lawyer you meet with as much information as possible about your matter and to keep that lawyer informed of any changes in circumstances.