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The Wonderful Wizard of Laws

You go to a lawyer because s/he knows more than you do. S/he doesn’t, but getting you to come back entails convincing you that they do indeed know more than you. One of the ways lawyers try to convince you that they know more than you is that they never tell you anything. They hem and ha and present everything in broad strokes. Afraid someone might discover they actually do not know anything, to either say “no” or sidestep the question with multiple alternatives. See, unlike doctors, you do not have to dig up the body to demonstrate the attorney made the wrong decision. It is all there in black and white for everyone to read.

Using a lot of fancy language and skirting the tough decisions therefore not only convinces the client the lawyer went somewhere the client has never been to learn these big words, but also avoids the liability associated with making a wrong decision. Bad lawyers, like the Wizard in Oz, are afraid that if you actually saw behind the curtain, you would never have hired them in the first place.

So how do you find a good lawyer? Well, you could ask someone you trust for a recommendation. Be careful, however. Unless the person has first hand knowledge of the attorney, the recommendation is probably worthless. A better way to pick an attorney is to find out what other lawyers think of that lawyer. If you live outside of Iowa, check Martindale to determine their rating. An AV rating is the highest rating a lawyer or law firm can have. Make sure you check the rating of the particular lawyer, rather than just the rating of the firm.

Iowa lawyers typically do not have their Martindale ratings posted, but they will know their own ratings. If they say they do not know their ratings, you can be pretty sure it is not AV. Be prepared to pay a little more for an AV-rated lawyer though. If you have a simple job to do, you may do fine with a younger attorney with a solid academic record. Many of these attorneys are very good, but have not had enough contact with other lawyers to develop a rating. For more complex or technical matters, however, it is best to have a seasoned well qualified lawyer involved.

While the forgoing methods may be good for narrowing down your search, the best way to pick an lawyer is to meet with them. Once you have the field narrowed down, go with your gut. If the attorney is responsive, answers your questions directly and has a proven track record doing what you need to have done, you should probably be okay. If the lawyer gives you their direct phone line, you can be relatively certain you will not have problems with them ducking your calls in the future. After a meeting or two, your gut will tell you whether you are truly dealing with a the Wonderful Wizard of Laws or simply a man behind a curtain.

Brett Trout

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