27. Selecting a Litigator-Trial Lawyer

For most people, when they need to retain a lawyer for a contested matter (a trial case), they go to the internet and review web sites. That’s a great place to start; but, it should only be “a start”. Nowadays, most lawyers/law-firms have glitzy websites and espouse that their lawyers are “trial lawyers” and represent that their lawyers have great winning loss  records. In many instances, nothing could be further from the truth.

Mackey Law Group’s lawyers are literally in the courtrooms every day in a variety of different types of cases. This means we are not afraid to go to trial and do not try to convince a client to settle because of courtroom inexperience. You may be surprised to hear that we never encounter most of the TV or bragging website attorneys, which logically means they are not in the courtroom as often as they would like you to believe.

Truth be told, most self-proclaimed “trial lawyers” are not experienced winners in the courtroom and most of them have never even tried a jury case. These Website Legends push paper around and then scramble to settle their cases because they are actually inexperienced in the courtroom. But how does a non-lawyer know how to select a real trial lawyer? The following are some questions you should ask and demand answers to:

  1. When was the last time you actually tried a contested case to conclusion?
  2. How many trials have you first-chaired (the first string attorney) in the past three years?
  3. Have you ever selected a jury and first-chaired a jury trial to conclusion?
  4. Do you win most of your cases? Why not?
  5. Are you a Small Claims lawyer, a County Court lawyer, a Circuit Court lawyer? Cases in each court go up in  complexity as more money is at stake.
  6. Are you admitted to the United States Federal Court? Have you tried cases to conclusion in Federal Court?
  7. Are you also a “mediator”. If so, why? Do you not have enough work in your office and/or cases to try?
  8. What types of cases have you taken to trial where there is a jury or judge verdict in favor of your client?

All of the above are fair questions. Any real trial lawyer will welcome the opportunity to answer such questions. Web site bragging should never be the reason to hire a lawyer. You may be placing your financial life in a lawyer’s hands and you need the best. My personal observation is that many lawyers are ill-prepared at trial, lack real knowledge of the rules applicable to trying cases, and are just plain lazy……not returning telephone calls, not planning-out how a case should proceed, and failing to be mentally aggressive.

Make sure that you are selecting the right lawyer. Here at Mackey Law Group we are experienced trial lawyers. We are also winners. We welcome the opportunity to answer the above questions. Make sure that you get the very best lawyer that you can afford.  Never settle for less.

By: Peter J. Mackey, Esq.


22. Translation Problems in the Law

Being able to communicate effectively with your attorney is central to the foundation of all attorney client relationships. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to obtain effective legal representation if you and your attorney don’t speak the same language. Many choose to rely on a third-party, such as a friend or relative to help translate.

The problem with this “solution” is two-fold. First, like the children’s game of telephone, key information gets lost and distorted along the way. In the legal arena where details matter, this can be fatal to one’s case. Second, involving a third-party may jeopardize the attorney client privilege, a crucial component of any case.

Here at Mackey Law Group P.A., we understand the importance of communicating directly with our clients. This is why we offer legal services in Spanish as well as English. If you are in need of an attorney who speaks Spanish I, Jorge Martinez, will assist you personally. No one should have to settle for an attorney they are unable to communicate with.

By: Jorge Martinez, Esq.

4. Board Certified Civil Trial Attorneys: Are They All Experts?

Board Certification is admirable; it is evidence of experience and likeability in one’s local Bar. But, don’t be fooled by window-dressing labels when selecting your trial attorney. I have found the vast majority of such “trial attorneys” are ineffective and unjustifiably arrogant. Recently, there has even been a court decision which allowed a non-certified trial attorney, who had certain qualifications, to call himself an expert. This was being opposed by; you guessed it, Board Certified attorneys.

When selecting a trial attorney, you should be hyper-critical. This is a do or die choice for you when faced with a financially high-stakes situation. Ask your potential trial lawyer: (i) How many civil jury and bench trials have you first-chaired (many ex-state attorneys and public defenders use their criminal trials to qualify for civil certification); (ii) What is his/her track record? Have they won the vast majority of their civil cases for their clients?; and (iii) Will they provide you with references? A successful civil trial attorney will have many satisfied clients all of whom should welcome the opportunity comment of their trial counsel. You want a winner.

Why do I write this blog? Am I just a disgruntled civil trial attorney who is not Board-Certified? Actually I was Board-Certified in Business Litigation by The Florida Bar.  I was in the very first class of such lawyers in Florida in 1996…..I was in my early 30’s. And there were less than 25 of us in the whole state. The standards back then were vastly more stringent than they are today….many more civil bench and jury trials were required. Now things are watered-down. Most “trial attorneys” now push clients to mediation and settle cases, never setting foot in the trial forum. The days of real trial attorneys seem to be waning. My Business Litigation certification was not renewed because some lawyer anonymously sent in a negative “peer review”; being liked by the other attorneys is actually one of the criteria for recertification. I was neither allowed to know who my accuser was nor was I able to question the review. I was never even allowed to know the content of the peer review. I was simply not re-certified because some lawyer, who I had probably beat in a case, said that I was not “nice and cordial”.

I hope that this illuminates one of the problems you will be faced with in selecting trial counsel: you will be bombarded with labels of Board Certified and those attorneys will try to convince you that only they are “experts”.  In my opinion, those certifications are nothing more than the result of a beauty contest. Do you really want your trial attorney to be the most popular attorney with his adversaries? Do you want your gladiator to be liked by the others for scratching the backs of opposing counsel?

As my old boss said, It’s fairly simple: Who did you “like” better as a kid, the one you could push around on the playground or the one who did the pushing? Now fast forward to being in a situation where you need skilled and aggressive representation: do you want the “liked” kid who is now an attorney and has a bunch of certifications or do you want the seasoned trial attorney, the expert who all the other lawyers have heard about, the one they fear?

Prosecuting or defending your rights in a civil lawsuit is a win and lose game; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I love to come up against Board Certified Civil Trial Attorneys; most of the time, they’re like lambs going into the lion’s den.

By: Peter J. Mackey, Esq.