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Family Law Specialists*

Steve Fernandez and Mark Karney are Certified Family Law Specialists* 

So, you have hired a lawyer for your case. You thought you made a good choice but lately, you have been feeling like something is wrong. Maybe they are hard to get in touch with or they don’t have any enthusiasm for your case.

Or perhaps you have a personality clash with them or they seem overly disorganized. In the worst-case scenario, you have discovered that they have sketchy billing practices or engage in unethical behavior. What should you do next?

Here are six telltale signs that you have hired a bad lawyer, and how to avoid them in the future:

1) No Enthusiasm

Your case is important to you. It should also be important to your lawyer. Keep in mind that they will have other clients and cases. However, when you talk to them you should feel like they know the status of your case and that they have a clear goal in mind of where it is going.

You also need a lawyer who is enthusiastic about your case because they will be the one convincing others, like a judge or a jury, to rule in your favor.

2) Poor Communication

If you are constantly frustrated with the way they communicate, you may have a bad lawyer. They should keep you informed about your case and seek your opinion on major matters. You may feel like you are being ignored or minimized. You may have difficulty getting in touch with them.

What should you do if your attorney ignores you? Talk to them and explain your expectations for communication. If they don’t change, then fire them and hire an attorney who will meet your needs for communication.

3) Personality Conflicts

Lawyers come from all walks of life and they have different personalities. Some are high energy, some are more passive, and others are in-between. You need to assess your lawyer and make sure you find one who matches your personality style.

If you get anxious easily, you may not want a high energy person representing you. This could make you feel on edge and not comfortable with your representation.

At the very minimum, the lawyer you hire should put you at ease. They should be rational and have a reassuring manner. If they don’t have this or they make you uncomfortable, it may be best to seek representation elsewhere.

4) Disorganized

How are the scheduling practices of your lawyer? Do they seem to always forget when their appointments are or do they constantly run late for meetings? Is their appearance groomed or disheveled? It is a red flag if your lawyer appears unkempt and can never keep an appointment.

A court won’t take them seriously and neither should you. Many cases like child custody and divorce have strict deadlines. You do not want to hire a lawyer that cannot remember when things are due.

5) Unclear Billing

In general, you will be billed hourly or on a contingency basis, where the lawyer will only get paid if they win the case. Always review any bill or statement you receive from your lawyer.

This is especially important if they are billing you hourly. Many lawyers have staff who work at different hourly rates. Your bill should clearly state who was working on your case and what they were doing. It is a sign of a bad lawyer if they cannot explain charges to you.

6) Unethical Behavior

Lawyers are bound by rules of ethical and professional responsibility, defined by the American Bar Association and local state laws. In California, the State Bar sets laws and rules that govern an attorney’s behavior in the state. Obvious types of unethical behavior include lying, breaking the law, or misbehaving in court.

Other types of actions that could be considered unethical are needlessly multiplying proceedings or pursuing frivolous legal claims that have no basis in fact or law. Run away if you know your lawyer is acting unethically or if they ask you to lie or break the law.

How to Avoid Hiring a Bad Lawyer in the Future

When you first meet with a lawyer, before you hire them, ask them about their expectations. It is also good to let them know what you require from them. You both want to be on the same page. For example, ask them how they prefer to communicate. If they like text messages and social media but you prefer phone calls, it may not be a good fit.

Do your research before hiring a lawyer. Check reviews online to see what former clients say about them and their style of representation. You can also try to investigate and see if there are any disciplinary actions against them.

This will let you know what type of lawyer they are. It will also show you if they have had any allegations against them for unclear billing or unethical behavior. If they do, it is best to find a different lawyer.