When in a new town, or are unfamiliar with local services, most of us use the search terms “pizza near me” or “auto mechanic near me”. We are seeking convenience in the form of geographic proximity.
But let’s assume for the moment that you wanted cosmetic surgery. You could Google up a cosmetic surgeon near you and chances are you would find one that has the credentials required to put a scalpel to your face. What’s the worst-case scenario? Sure, you could die, but the more likely worst-case scenario is that you are disfigured for life. Knowing that, you probably wouldn’t select a cosmetic surgeon based on their geographic proximity. You would probably do your homework. You would research their credentials. If you are a detail person, you would probably contact the regulating medical body to see if there had been any complaints. You might even check the public records to see if the doctor had been involved in any lawsuits. If your physical well-being was really, really important to you, you’d probably learn the credentials that distinguish great cosmetic surgeons from adequate or mediocre ones. You would probably ask for referrals or testimonials. You might talk to the doctors that you trust and ask them who they would recommend.
When experiencing financial troubles, many people do not use the same process in deciding which lawyer they should use. The problem with law, unlike medicine, is that any lawyer can practice any form of law. Ethically, they are not supposed to represent that they can practice in a particular area of law if they are not competent in that field. “Competent”, however, is a very subjective and vague concept. How is a lawyer supposed to develop competence, if they don’t try their hand at a case or two in a particular area of law? Many lawyers do just this without first seeking the guidance and supervision of experienced lawyers. Lawyers often think that they can attend a couple of continuing education seminars and that somehow magically imbues them with the ability to discern a simple case from a complicated one. Unfortunately, in the practice of law, it is the mishandling of simple cases that turns them into the most complicated cases.
Like a bad plastic surgeon, however, the chances that an inexperienced or even incompetent lawyer is going to kill you is remote. A bad lawyer can, however, ruin your life. And you are not going to know whether a lawyer is good or bad simply based on the quality of their website.
If you had a heart condition or could afford to drive an expensive Ferrari, you wouldn’t choose the heart surgeon or Ferrari mechanic just because they were around the corner. You would do your homework. You would want to know that you are choosing the very best, even if it meant you had to spend a little driving time to get to them.
In my next post, I’ll share with you some of the criteria questions you should ask and the homework you should do when hiring a bankruptcy lawyer. I can assure you it’s a different process than finding a good local purveyor of pizza.
Find Bankruptcy horror stories at bankruptcy butcher.