There are many lawyers to choose from in California. You need to do research and find the one that fits your needs. The first place to start, even before you hire a lawyer, is to look at their reviews. With today’s technology, a quick internet search will usually show you the opinions of past clients. It is a red flag if there are multiple negative reviews or if you find that the lawyer has been charged with criminal activity.
Let’s say you have done your due diligence and hired a lawyer. At first, they seemed competent and enthusiastic to have you as a client. Lately, you feel like they have put you on the back burner and they are not giving you the best representation. Here are five signs to let you know if you have hired a bad lawyer.
1) There’s No Connection
Maybe at first your lawyer seemed to understand you and was excited to represent you. Over time, you lose that feeling. It could be that the lawyer is just not a good fit for you or your case.
It could also be a matter of personality conflicts where you and your lawyer are just not a good match. Ultimately, you need to find a lawyer that you trust and that puts you at ease.
2) There’s a Lack of Communication
What do you do when your attorney ignores you? Maybe they stop returning your calls or emails. They could also be making major decisions in your case without consulting you. If you are experiencing any of this, it may be time to get a new lawyer.
However, it may not be the best strategy for your case to change lawyers in the middle of litigation. If this is the case, talk to your lawyer and ask them to communicate more. Let them know what you expect and how and when you want them to communicate with you. You can even ask them what their communication policies are so you can understand what to expect from them.
3) The Lawyer Has No Enthusiasm for Your Case
How do you know if your lawyer is good? They make you feel comfortable and you trust them to be your advocate. It is hard to be an effective advocate if they show no enthusiasm for your case. You need someone who is results-driven and who shows empathy for you.
For example, if you are going through a contentious divorce, you need a lawyer who knows the importance of learning all the details and is passionate about getting you what you deserve.
4) The Lawyer Has Sketchy Billing Practices
It is a sign of a bad lawyer if they are not transparent with their billing practices. There are several ways lawyers can unethically inflate their fees or make you pay more money out-of-pocket. Examples of this can include:
- Padding hours
- Doubling billing
- Excessive or heightened fees
- Charging overhead expenses, or
If you feel like the fees you are being charged do not match the work product or representation you received, ask the lawyer to show you their notes and billing practices. If they cannot do this, you have probably hired a bad lawyer.
5) The Lawyer Seems Incompetent
Legal incompetence is the inability to represent you successfully in your case. One example is if the attorney is never on time. This may displease a judge who could then be biased in your case. It is also incompetence if the lawyer is not prepared or doesn’t seem to know your case or understand what laws apply.
Engaging in illegal or unethical behavior is also incompetence. This doesn’t have to relate to your case. For example, a lawyer who is frequently drunk or gets DUIs may be incompetent to work on your case.
All lawyers in California are bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct. If a lawyer breaks these rules, they can be fined or even possibly lose their license to practice law. If the lawyer breaks any laws, they can also be criminally punished.
What Do You Do Next If You Hired a Bad Lawyer?
If you are a defendant in a criminal trial and you feel like you may have hired a bad lawyer, you have options if you are convicted of the crime. You can file an appeal claiming that you were given ineffective assistance of counsel.
In most other instances, the first step is to talk directly with your lawyer. Let them know that you have noticed the issue and need change. If they do not change or are unwilling to try, you can seek new counsel.
If the lawyer has committed a crime or participated in illegal or unethical behavior, do not consult with them about what to do next. Report them to the State Bar of California or the local police and find new representation.