Serving Clients in Knox, Blount, Anderson, Loudon, Sevier & Roane Counties

HOW TO HIRE A GOOD LAWYER

Step 1: Find potential lawyers.

· If you are getting a divorce, you probably know other people who have gotten a divorce. Who represented them? Were they happy with the outcome? The attention?

Search the internet. Past clients often review their lawyers. What do those reviews say? Don’t just look at the “stars” or who comes up first on Google, because lawyers pay money to get their name to pop up first. Instead, look at the comments. Do they reflect what you want in a lawyer? If there are negative comments, remember how hard it is to make everyone happy all the time. Do those comments seem fair?

Step 2: Call for a consultation

When you call, notice whether you get through to a real person, or an automatic receptionist? If you got an automatic receptionist, you may not get much personal attention from that lawyer. Sometimes, the best offices get busy. So, if you get a recording, did a real person call you back promptly? If so, you might give that lawyer a second look.

Are consultations free? Don’t expect too much - a free consultation simply gives you a sense of the personality and knowledge of your lawyer. Did you like them personally? Did they give you good information or insist on getting paid first? Which felt more important – your case or the money? Beware the lawyer that makes promises to win. No responsible, competent lawyer gives guarantees. However, you should feel like you can trust this lawyer to handle your case competently.

Can you get an appointment soon? If so, the lawyer likely will have time to give your case the personal attention you need. However, beware the lawyer who answers their own phone. If they do not have office staff to help them, they will never adequately keep up with your case. Lawyers go to court. When they are in court, they rely on their staff to answer the phone.

Step 3: Prepare for the consultation

Write down your questions.

Gather all documents related to your case, such as Orders you want revised or Complaints you must answer.

Gather financial documents, like bills, retirement and bank account statements, credit card statements, tax returns and pay stubs. Almost all lawsuits involve money, so get ready to talk about money.

Bring anything else you think is important. If it matters to you, then it should probably matter to your attorney.

Step 4: Consult

Make the most of your time by telling the lawyer what you need in 1-2 sentences.

Ask lots of questions from your list. Make sure the lawyer answers all or your questions or tells you why they can’t and what they would do to find the answer.

Ask how the lawyer plans to handle your money. Expect to pay money up front (called a “retainer.”) The lawyer should give you a written fee agreement that explains how they will handle your money. The fee agreement will tell you whether the money you pay them is refundable or non-refundable, and what happens if and when you run out of money in your account. Beware non-refundable retainers because lawyers who charge them often maximize profit by doing as little work as possible. At Held Law Firm, we only charge refundable retainers.

Ask how often you will get an update on your case or a statement. At Held Law Firm, we send you monthly statements and usually respond to an email requesting a status update within a day.

Ask the names of all people who will work on your case. The best lawyers have staff and associate attorneys who help them handle more mundane tasks, but make sure you don’t get “handed off” to the junior associate without supervision and support. Make sure your lawyer cares enough to stay involved.

Ask the lawyer’s opinion of other lawyers you are considering hiring. If they just insult them, be careful, but if they give you an honest assessment of the other lawyer’s strengths and weaknesses, their opinion of their colleague can help you form your own opinion. Ask them what they consider to be their own strengths and weaknesses as an attorney.

Ask about the lawyer’s experience handling your type of case. You will form an opinion about their experience from the way they answer your questions. Family law requires not only knowledge of the law but experience with local judges, because judges have so much discretion to make decisions. You need a lawyer who can anticipate what your judge is likely to do.

I founded Held Law Firm in 1998. In the last 25 years, many people have told me why they hired me and my law firm instead of The Other Guy. Here’s what they say:

(1) We care about our clients, and they know it.

Our clients tell me they feel that we represent THEM, not just work their case. We care about our clients as people and will always have your back. We will be honest with you, root for you, and stand up for you.

This is our job, but it’s your family. Your life. So, we don’t keep this process a mystery, we don’t keep secrets, and we take the time to explain everything. You need to be the first person to know about any conversation, any pleading, any development. Even if we attorneys can’t call you back ourselves, our staff will get back to you within a day. We usually respond to emails seven days a week, often within an hour of being sent. We send detailed statements every month of everything that’s been done on your case. We copy you on everything we receive in this office and everything we send out of the office.

(2) We inspire our clients with more than our competence.

Technically, anyone can get you divorced. Plenty of lawyers are competent. With us, you receive personal coaching, contact, care, and concern/ We take pride by going that extra mile to help our clients create a positive, happy, better life on the other side of divorce. We follow up and spend time making sure we’ve done everything we can for you.

(3) We’re patient.

You wouldn’t be here if something wasn’t wrong. The best way to get you past the stress is to stand with you. Most lawyers try to convince clients that they are more “in-the-know” than you – a strategy to get you to open your wallet and stop asking them so many questions. Here, we don’t think anyone is better than anyone else because of their degree or what challenge they face. Here, we love questions. We want you to understand everything. We’ll take as long as needed to sit with you until you understand.

3. Our lawyers maintain a maximum caseload of 50 clients.

Most lawyers take whatever work comes through the door and maintain caseloads of 150-300 or more cases. Being that over-worked means they are constantly reacting to crisis, rather than running their files. You have enough crisis in your life without dealing with the crisis of your lawyer being perpetually overworked and never available. That’s why each of our attorneys maintains a maximum caseload of 50 clients at a time.

4. We charge refundable retainers.

Most lawyers charge “non-refundable retainers.” That means, if your case takes less time than they thought, they pocket the money. If it takes longer, then you still owe money.

Our family lawyers charge refundable retainers – meaning, if the case takes less time than we thought, then you get money back. We refunded over $85,000 to clients last year whose cases turned out to not be as bad as we thought.

5. We practice law from a Victorian house, not some shiny high rise.

We don’t charge you lots of money just so we can pay high-rise rent. Instead, we invite you to visit us in a beautiful Victorian house, furnished with local art and antiques, with free parking, There’s a fire in the fireplace during the winter, and we always have a pot of coffee brewing.

6. We use the latest technology.

Even though we pride ourselves on our old school values, we bring the latest technology to the courtroom. All of our files are scanned and at our fingertips 24/7. We have real-time access to the research skills of support staff back at the office and we have the most sophisticated audio and visual presentation capacity of any family law firm in this area. As one Judge remarked, “doesn’t all that give you an unfair advantage?” My question is: what’s unfair about being better?

7. We work as a team.

Most modern law firms are actually an “association.” An “association” of lawyers simply share office space and a receptionist. They don’t typically consult with one another or know anything about each other’s cases. At Held Law Firm, when you hire one of us, you hire all of us. We meet regularly to review all aspects of your case, from the legal strategy to the status of negotiations to how to make your case more affordable to how to bring to your attention to other legal issues you may not have yet considered. We assign tasks to the staff person who can do the job most cost-effectively and quickly.

8. We keep an eye on the big picture.

Whether it’s the big picture for your family or the big picture for the community, we advocate for you. We learn from the individual experiences of our clients, identify common problems, and develop larger strategies and resources to improve our community, and the experience of our clients with the legal system. Every lawyer here maintains a caseload that includes at least one person that we represent for free and a community service project. We are not hired guns; we are officers of the Court. We get bored by the idea of being good. We enjoy being the best.

9. We have a combined 50+ years of experience.

Most lawyers feel burnt out by the time they reach this point in their careers. We are just now hitting our prime.

10. We love what we do.

Because I have always known I wanted to practice law, I spent my childhood and adolescent years working in law firms. When I was 8 years old, buck-toothed, blond and freckled, I made coffee at one of those law firms that smelled of old books and leather. In high school, I made copies at a corporate firm. In college, I clerked for three senior family lawyers, and then took dictation for a business firm, pounding out letters on an IBM Selectric. Then I worked for a firm that specialized in class action and products liability cases, before arriving at Knoxville Legal Aid Society, where I clerked, then served as a paralegal, and then as a staff attorney. In that process, I’ve developed some strong opinions about what makes a law firm great.

I’ve spent the last twenty-five years building this law firm to meet those expectations. I commit to old values, really. To loyalty, to putting the client first, but also I need to offer honesty and realism, occasionally telling my clients that which they do not want to hear. The hardest part is telling Judges what they don’t want to hear – that no, they don’t get to do whatever they want, that we are a nation of laws and their discretion, even in family law.

But the next hardest part is what I have to say next. I promised you honesty. Here goes:

No one wants to hear from a girl. Everyone wants us to have the ear, the influence, the….literally…balls. Everyone has had a mom or a teacher, and the privileged among our menfolk have had a secretary who taught them much and kept them straight. I’m not ashamed that I spent a lot of my legal career in that role, and to this day, my most effective arguments are when I play to that supporting role. I don’t mind. But sometimes it gets hard to explain to my client that, after 25 years of licensure and 46 years doing every job in a law office, with the law clerk on one computer doing real time legal research, my paralegal on another computer with her summary charts for the exhibits we subpoenaed, and me, standing at the podium getting real-time input from a team that has worked THIS HARD to be this good, even when we see opposing counsel, alone, with his bad haircut, ill fitting suit, and raggedy file, when I’m almost always the oldest and most experienced lawyer in the room…why is it still this hard. Why, when they paid for all this, did I lose?

When picking a lawyer, factor that in. The reality is that my firm will care more, work harder, and be more prepared, and we have more experience than anyone in that room. We do all that because we care, because we have pride in our profession, and because we are not men.

I like men. We love to represent men. If I take your case (because I don’t need the money) then your cause is just. But we are, as women, even now, at a disadvantage because of our gender. I will work my ass off for you, as will every woman in my office. But, you gotta consider, in the end, you might be better served by another man. That’s the choice you must make. I would not hold true to my commitment to put your interest first if I did not tell you that honestly, my gender is my disability, and this is your fight for your family.

Choose us, and we will have your back, tell you the truth, and fight for your family. That’s what I got.

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