Weekly if not daily, GRL Law receives inquiries from people seeking “second opinions” about their pending cases. These people often find themselves in one of the most difficult times of their lives, unfamiliar with the legal process, and wondering if they made a big mistake hiring their current attorney. These calls create a difficult and delicate situation because rules of ethics prohibit attorneys from speaking with any individual who is currently represented by another attorney. An exception to this rule exists if permission is granted from the current attorney to speak to the client. As a result of this rule, the client is left either having to fire their current attorney or inform them they are seeking a second opinion and need their permission to speak to another attorney. This is a difficult situation for anyone to be in.
Explaining the ethical restrictions on speaking with represented callers often discourages these individuals from seeking second opinions in the legal field. The individual may not feel comfortable informing their current attorney that they are desiring a second opinion and certainly may not want to make a definitive decision to relieve that attorney of service. This predicament can cause understandable frustrations and undermines a person’s trust in not just attorneys, but more importantly the legal system.
In our experience, attorney hiring decisions fall into three categories: (1) those made out of emotion (i.e. “I need someone now and I don’t care who it is”), (2) those are based on referrals (“I have an attorney who helped me once”), and (3) those based on research. The first two categories account for the majority of the “I’m looking for a second opinion” calls. Logically, this makes sense because those who hire attorneys as a result of an emotional or referral-based decision have not conducted their own research to assure themselves that they are in the right hands. This may result in hiring an attorney who may not be as knowledgeable about the area of the law where the client needs help, does not effectively communicate with the client about their case, or for some other reason does not make the client feel comfortable. Whatever the reason, the despair of an already challenging situation only deepens when clients find themselves in this situation.
Those who take the time to thoroughly research the attorney they hire, know whether the attorney specializes in the area(s) of the law, know the results the attorney has obtained for clients in similar circumstances, and have likely read online (AVVO, Facebook, Google, etc) reviews about the attorney from past clients. Usually, thorough research of an attorney or law firm prior to hiring the attorney provides for an added layer of confidence that the client has the right person for the job.
Hiring an attorney can be one of the biggest decisions in a person’s life and someone should not feel discouraged to seek a second opinion when they feel it is appropriate. Nor should an attorney discourage a client from seeking a second opinion. Clients need to be comfortable and confident with the attorney they hire regardless of the legal issue involved. At GRL Law we encourage both current and potential clients to get second opinions if they have any doubt about who they are going to hire. This is an important decision often made during one of the most difficult and challenging times of a persons life. Comfort and confidence in the team selected to assist you is paramount to an effective and successful attorney-client relationship.