John B. Quinn is the founder of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, the world’s largest law firm dedicated solely to business litigation.
No one wants to be pulled into a lawsuit, but a case can find you easier than you imagine. When that happens, the most important decision under your control is who to hire to represent you. To be sure, some cases can be won or lost regardless of the lawyer’s quality, but those are rare.
Whether you are a business or an individual, the considerations are largely the same. The lawyer you pick will almost always make the difference in what facts are developed, how effectively your case will be presented and the signals you send your adversary, their attorney and the judge.
Selecting the right lawyer requires asking the right questions and having direct conversations about both the case and your expectations. Although the most important consideration should be the extent to which that lawyer will help you win or bring about a more favorable settlement, many clients focus too much on the costs. While legal fees are important, the cost of losing a single significant case will often more than erase the incremental savings gained by having hired lower-cost lawyers.
Assessing a Lawyer’s Skill
How do you assess a lawyer’s skill? Much can be learned from listening to the potential lawyer share their initial thoughts about the case. During that conversation, you should obtain as much information as possible about the lawyer’s experience and results—particularly whether your case’s subject matter fits their expertise.
There is also a big difference between litigators and trial lawyers. All trial lawyers are litigators, but not all litigators are trial lawyers. Trial work is a skill unto itself. The experience of many litigators is often limited to pretrial