In hiring an ERISA lawyer, a potential client should know the lawyer they are hiring is knowledgeable about a complex field of law, which makes ERISA cases different from other types of cases such as personal injury or contract disputes. Clients should research the lawyer they are thinking about hiring to learn about the cases that lawyer has litigated and the results achieved. Clients should also read what the lawyer has written about issues relevant to the client’s issue– not just self-published blogs but also articles about ERISA the lawyer has published in authoritative legal publications such as law reviews, bar journals, and legal news sources. Finally, the client should see whether the lawyer has lectured on ERISA topics at legal seminars or teaches law students. A lawyer who teaches other practicing and budding lawyers is one who has been recognized by peers as knowledgeable and a thought leader in the field.
As with researching the lawyer’s knowledge, the internet is the best tool a potential client has available to learn about a lawyer’s experience. An experienced lawyer has litigated cases to judgment and to the courts of appeals. Potential clients should not be shy about asking the lawyer they are considering hiring about similar cases they have handled and the results they have achieved.
Potential clients should not rely solely on a well-designed website or paid ads, but should do their homework in evaluating the lawyer they plan to hire.
Many ERISA benefit claims involve disability, death, or serious illness. A lawyer with compassion cares about their clients and will understand and communicate the personal toll the underlying issue has taken on the client and their family to opposing counsel and to the court.
All lawyers have a duty to be zealous in their representation of their clients. But some stand out for leaving no stone unturned and putting in the hard work and effort that makes the difference between winning and losing. The client should be left with the feeling that they are the lawyer’s only client and are receiving the lawyer’s undivided attention.
The most frequent complaint about lawyers is that they fail to return phone calls. Clients have a right to expect prompt responses when they call or send emails to their attorneys. While responses to emails sent in the evening, on weekends, or holidays may be delayed until regular business hours, or the lawyer may be tied up in court, a deposition, or a meeting when the client reaches out, a prompt reply as soon as practicable should be the rule.
In choosing a lawyer, clients should look for one who promptly communicates all news and developments in their case, regardless of whether it is good news or bad. Clients should also look for a lawyer who discusses strategy with their clients and makes their client fully aware of and informed about not just what has happened in a case, but everything that is going to happen as well.
Every client has expectations – but are those expectations realistic? A potential client should select a lawyer who tells them what they need to know and not just what they want to know or hope to hear. Ideally, a client should select a lawyer who under-promises and over-delivers.
Many potential clients think the best lawyer to hire is one who has a reputation for combativeness. While that works in some cases, in the long run a client is better off hiring a lawyer who is well-respected by judges and opposing counsel. That does not mean the lawyer is “soft” or weak; it means the lawyer is effective and is recognized as one who gets the job done.
In looking for a lawyer, a client should select one who provides high quality services at a fair price. The availability of contingency fees in certain types of cases can make it feasible to pursue a matter that would be unaffordable if the lawyer charged by the hour for their services. But sometimes an hourly fee arrangement is more economical and not all contingency fee arrangements offered by lawyers are the same. The fee has to be commensurate with the services performed and the results achieved.
10. Professionally responsible
Every client expects their lawyer to be honest and ethical, and with rare exceptions, nearly all are. But the client should also expect their lawyer will scrupulously maintain all client confidences, avoid even the appearance of any conflict, and be entirely transparent in explaining fees and case expenses, along with claims and litigation strategy.