People tend to want to deal with people they like and this applies to clients and their lawyers. However, is that a good enough or important reason to choose a lawyer on that criteria online?
Almost certainly not – clients use lawyers for important matters, often business critical or of vital personal importance. Competence is obviously very important as is experience.
So, if you can establish, via research, enquiries and recommendations that a lawyer knows his or her stuff and is a nice person is that sufficient to make your choice?
I would argue not in most cases.
Whilst there is often a crossover with likeability and competence, other traits are also very important – being streetwise, persuasive, charismatic and astute are often the vital “x” factors in achieving your best outcome when using a lawyer.
The legal “x” factor
There are some situations where dealings are almost completely just between solicitor and client. Examples include being instructed to advise on or draft a contract such as terms and conditions or preparing a will.
However, in most cases, other parties are involved – what solicitors will often refer to as “the other side” – which generally means other parties involved in a contract negotiation or transaction, maybe beneficiaries in a probate, opponents in a legal dispute. The “other side” may also include the other party or parties as well as their lawyers. Other 3rd parties are involved invariably with property transactions such as Estate Agents, sometimes Mortgage or Insurance brokers or lenders.
The degree to which your lawyer is persuasive or savvy in dealing with other lawyers and/or 3rd parties is often critical to getting the best result. This may mean either mean the best settlement in a dispute or getting a property transaction through as fast as possible.
In some situations your lawyer may need to be very pushy with other parties, in other situations he or she may need to be the nice guy. Personality and people skills matter and the ability to be adaptable. Sometimes, reputations precede lawyers. This can also work in your favour or against you. In the internet age, most lawyers will immediately check out “the other side” as soon as finding out who they are, if they haven’t dealt with them before. Who is on the other side can make a big difference right from the outset.
Being tough or super nice isn’t the whole story.
Sometimes it’s about timing things right and walking the middle line, being persuasive and/or charismatic. Sometimes, it can mean knowing when to stay quiet or even concede on certain points, seeing the bigger picture (Barristers and Solicitors who go to court will tell you that it can be as important to know when to stay quiet and say nothing as to forcefully argue a point or aggressively cross examine a witness).
The ability to influence people applies just as much to dealings between solicitors as it does between solicitor and client.
Ego is another big factor as is the ability and willingness of lawyers to set aside personal emnities with each other but that’s a whole new blog post for another time!
It makes sense to get to know and understand your lawyer as much as you can before you instruct him or her. I always suggest clients speak to and/or meet a lawyer before instructing – make a judgment not just on competence and likeability but also instinctively on whether the person comes across to you as persuasive and streetwise.
Haven't found what you need yet?
Why not search the whole site?