You are not lying if you feel that lawyers make the world more complicated in every area of life. There is no more amorphous profession than the law. Choosing a lawyer is hard.
Recommendations don't mean a thing. All legal dilemmas are unique. You must step in to help your lawyer. If you are not prepared to do that, you will not have a satisfactory experience. Your lawyer does not know your life, or business. You have to take an active role in your lawyer's work. If your lawyer doesn't want your help, find a new lawyer.
Being in business for many years has left me with the scars of many legal battles. The Swiss watch industry found my discounting very disturbing, and spared no expense trying to nail me to the wall.
Lawyers usually don't compromise their own morals just for a retainer. Many of them just don't know their limitations. While they truly think they can help you, they may not be able to. Therefore, before forking over a retainer, get in writing precisely what the lawyer or his firm will do for you. Or write out what you're expecting him to do, and just get him to okay it. Make sure that your lawyer knows what your case is about. Be careful, they often will take a retainer, and send you on your way. Make sure to discuss fees. You must discuss their ability to handle the case, and must figure out if a lawyer can truly help you.
Here is a rule of thumb that works, if your case is civil in nature, the worst thing that can happen is that the money that you give your lawyer is wasted. If it is a criminal matter, the worst thing that can happen is that you will be sitting in a small room doing some guy's laundry, or worse, for the rest of your life. Criminal cases attract a particularly whoreish group of lawyers. They want all the money up front [kind of like buying a watch from me], and then you are left with a box of tide and your new best friend in Leavenworth. Seriously though, my acquaintance with lawyers has been positive. I have met many gentlemen in such arenas as family, criminal, and personal injury law. They all seemed truly dedicated in helping me and my family out. This may be rare though. Usually, in between humping you out of your money, they are humping your estranged wife!
Don't judge weakness by meeting someone who does not have all the answers, and has a scholarly look to them. The Johnny Cochran type does not fit most situations. While you go through the process, understand that the lawyer's stock of trade is their time. Most attorneys have furthered their education over the years. Sometimes they can't call you back, because they are simply too busy. Often times a client doesn't realize the overhead associated with being an attorney: paralegals, investigators, filing fees for cases, etc. To be a good lawyer, your attorney must closely research and monitor your situation. They must take the time to truly understand your situation to find the best recourse. Be patient, this can take time and amount to thousands of dollars. Any legal action is a messy, expensive affair with an unknown outcome [kind of like marriage]. It is a profession that takes a lot of energy. Of course, choosing an efficient and energetic attorney will lead to quick work and lower bills. As with physicians, I feel more comfortable doing business with Jewish lawyers. Jews have a feel for the law that is absent in many gentiles.
Sometimes a case can be settled without the services of a lawyer. But be careful, you might have a fool for a client. On the other hand, the phrase "we'll sue the bastard" can often result in a situation where your attorney will be surrounded by a team of well dressed people, in a courtroom with a judge, bailiff, and court reporter. Keep in mind that in this scenario, the only person not making money in the courtroom is you, everyone else is paid to be there. Remember, in court, everyone lies. The winner usually has either the best lawyer, or the best lie.
The problem with lawyers is that most of them enter the profession without realizing what's expected of them. For a few measly dollars, they're supposed to immerse themselves in their clients' problems. It's rare to find an attorney with that passion. Also, many lawyers have told me that they have trouble dealing with a shmuck of a client. As with a doctor, you should be #1, and you know what happened more than your lawyer does, so try to give him as much information as you can.
Remember, lawyers are human also. They have lives and wives, they get sick. There's a maximum amount of energy they can expend on each case, unless you're their only client. Actually, when you engage a lawyer, you're paying for legal advice, not a 24 hour slave. If most attorney knew what they'd be in for, they'd never complete the first year of law school. It's a miserable existance.
The bottom line is that when you are choosing a lawyer, shop around, make sure that any angst you have is assuaged. Don't expect to find Perry Mason, but do look for someone that will work closely with you and allow you to take an active role in the proceedings.
Over the years, my encounters with attorneys has certainly mitigated my litgious impulses.
Ask them for a roadmap of the sequence of events that will happen, and what they believe will be the final outcome. Unfortunately, most attorneys will take meritless cases, just for the retainer. Beware of young men taking your case. Shop around. Bring your wife, see what she says. Remember, a lawyer can bill you at his fancy with no warranty of how things will go. Lots of luck!
We have had the priviledge of working with some fine attorneys, both on our staff and as clients. If you need legal help, and live in a principle US city, give us a call. We may have just the person to handle your situation.