Online research is fine, but if you really want to judge a lawyer, then call him or her.

Websites are great. They provide information. Valuable information, that at one time may have been very hard to get. We take for granted how easy it has become to “Google” just about any query our curious and thirsty minds may have. And we’re usually able to quench that intellectual thirst, at least partially, with a few Internet searches.

And the search for legal advice is really no different. Sure, everyone understands that online research is no substitute for talking to a lawyer. But why not go ahead and get an idea with a little online research?

Websites are not a good measure for a Lawyer’s Skills or Competency, but instead reveal more about how they value the  “online experience”

In no way do I want to discourage anyone from conducting his or her own “research” online. I browse so many topics in a week, it’s insane.  However, I do want to emphasize that the amount of information on a lawyer’s website is not the end-all, be-all of that lawyer’s knowledge, nor is it really indicative at all of the lawyer’s knowledge, skills, competency, etc.

A website may reveal many other facts about a lawyer or a law firm, such as how serious the firm believes their website has an affect on potential clients; the firm’s own view of the importance of online image; whether the firm is aware of or cares about providing information to the public as a service for greater good; etc.

All of the above may be true in regards to what a website really says about a firm. But one thing is for certain: websites mean nothing about a lawyer’s skills, knowledge, experience, or competency. A website may say more about how that lawyer or firm values the potential client’s online experience. Which is not a bad thing in this Internet age. I certainly place a high value on the experience of online visitors.

But if you want to really gauge your potential lawyer, give him or her a call. I would highly encourage any person viewing a law firm website, or an attorney’s blog, to pick up the phone and call the person. One phone call can tell you a lot about what kind of experience that lawyer will provide the client.

How a Lawyer or Firm handles your phone calls also may not reveal much about skills or competency, but it will tell you how they much they value the actual “Client Experience”

Note the following in your first call to a lawyer:

  • Did the lawyer even take the call, or were you pushed through to a non-lawyer for case screening?
  • If you were able to talk to a lawyer, how did she or he handle your call?
  • Were they impatient? Or were they glad you called?

If you don’t want to make the phone call, try this: send an email. Surely the website has an email address or a “contact us” page or some form of submitting electronic communication. Send the firm an email with your questions and wait for a response. I think there is nothing wrong with judging a lawyer or his firm by how they respond to new client inquiries online. Again, it may not say anything about their skills, knowledge, experience, or competency, but it will tell you other important facts, such as whether they value new client inquiries, helping the public at large with general legal questions, and whether they even value the efficiency of online communication. All of which may also be of importance to you when choosing a lawyer.

Don’t get me wrong: skills, knowledge, competency and experience are of tremendous importance in a good lawyer. But those qualities are essentially prerequisites when your future is on the line. Those are things that we just expect. In fact, if a lawyer does not possess those attributes, they really aren’t even on the table of options. But when you do find a pool of good attorneys, all of which are competent and able to do the job, which do you choose?

In the coming weeks, I am going to be writing a series on how to choose a lawyer. But for now, if I was in need of a lawyer, I would be concerned with finding:

  • someone who values the importance of being available to me;
  • someone who is able to summarize and communicate to me the important aspects of my case;
  • someone who doesn’t seem annoyed when I call or when I have questions.

If these qualities are important to you, then try a few test communications with the lawyers and law firms you are browsing. At least then you’ll have an idea what it would be like to be their client and interact with their office.

About the author: Travis Charles Smith

Oklahoma City attorney Travis Charles Smith handles a variety of lawsuits involving injuries, accidents, property rights, civil rights, and cases that involve the wrongful conduct of others against the rights of his clients. His practice focuses on car accidentsnursing home abuse and neglect and bad faith insurance lawsuits: helping people who have been hurt, injured, or unfairly treated. If you want to speak with Travis, call (405) 701-6016 or send email to tcs@travischarlessmith.com

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