In each field of law, any attorney who wishes to be successful must possess specific skills and character traits which will enable him or her to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack of attorneys. Organizational and transaction skills are most advantageous for the business planning attorney, whereas technical and scientific knowledge will enable the patent attorney to succeed.
Many practicing attorneys fail to have a proper understanding of the rules of evidence and lack the knowledge of how and when to object and how to answer an objection. Also, an attorney with a mastery over the rules of evidence can use them as either a shield or a sword in admitting or barring important evidence. A client does not want an attorney who simply offers them options for them to choose. A client wants an attorney as a true advocate, one who can give them an answer and a firm and confident recommendation. Without confidence in their attorney, a client’s trust for that attorney will decrease, and the potential of repeat business is small. No client is looking for an attorney who appears disheveled without an idea of where certain documents may be located within the mound of papers on their desk. Litigators are not the most organized attorneys, but it is important to take the extra time to organize files and work areas.
Too often, attorneys are inclined to tell a client what they want to hear, rather than what they should hear. Honesty includes telling a client when it is the type of case that you do not typically handle while referring them to another qualified attorney. Along with being honest, an attorney should strive never to lose the ability to learn about a new area of the law. Most clients have come to you to deal with their specific and particular problem, and view it as a hassle and waste of time if you must refer them to another attorney. The law will always change, but it is the attorney who can always analyze and interpret the law who will remain successful. Some of the most common complaints made regarding one’s attorney stem from compensation disputes. To avoid this, it is always necessary to put in writing and explain to the client the method of billing, whether it is hourly or contingency billing.
The vast majority of cases never appear before a jury, but the willingness to bring a case to trial is often a factor which can spur settlement negotiations. When negotiating, it is necessary to do so in good faith, but one must be sure to keep in mind the goal of getting the best deal possible for a client. The need for honed interpersonal skills is not unique to the law, but its importance is greater for practicing attorneys than for most other professions. Unlike transactional attorneys, civil litigators must be comfortable talking to people and must be able to get along with many different kinds of people. If a client does not personally like his or her attorney, they are less likely to return to that attorney in the future, sometimes regardless of the prior outcome. Any litigator must possess the skills to persuade a judge, jury, client or opposing counsel regarding any particular issue. Whether it is trying to persuade opposing counsel that your case is stronger than it is, or persuading a client that a settlement offer is the best that they will get, the quality is of primary importance. If a case goes to trial, the side that wins is the most persuasive, absent a clear finding of law.