When I was a kid when our family car broke down, do you know what my father did?
He took it to a Tamil mechanic. Do you know what he did when it broke down a week later? He took it back to the same Tamil mechanic.
A wonderful thing about our community is that we want to support our own. It is a trait that is not found in every other communities. My Jamaican friends tell me that they can’t get a Jamaican client to save their lives. My Persian friends tell me that the last thing a Persian client wants is a Persian lawyer. I must admit that early on, I benefited from this uniquely Tamil attitude.
But I am writing this article to tell you the obvious: hiring a lawyer because their last name is as long as yours is a bad idea. Personally, I have gone with the Tamil option where there has been a tie between options. But never has “Tamilhood” been the starting criteria. My choice has always been who will give me the best results. This is no different when it comes to finding a lawyer.
Another important characteristic about Tamil people is that we are a group that haven’t had the same generational foundation as some communities that have been established in this country for many years. As a result, most Tamil people I know have had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They weren’t able to rely on a rich family member to get them into a certain school or land a fancy job. The result of this has made our community proudly self-reliant.
It is a great quality to have when putting up a shelf or fixing a flat tire, but not so much when it comes to your legal issues.
Many people try to save money by avoiding the help of a legal professional, but this can be compared to trying to pull out your sore tooth instead of going to a dentist. You may get lucky and pull it out without any problems, but more likely than not, you will end up with a lot of pain and have to pay a lot more to fix the larger problems that you have created.
Similarly, problems can arises from a will being done improperly, such as property not going to those you want it to go to, leaving your beneficiaries with major issues after your death. Problems that come up from an error in the sale of a house or in a divorce can cost you thousands of dollars of additional legal costs and losses later on. A poorly done criminal case can lead to an unwarranted criminal record and possibly unnecessary jail time.
In my experience, when people say they want to handle a case on their own, they usually talk about someone they know who didn’t use a lawyer and had everything turned out fine. And these cases do happen, but they are the very, very rare exception. No one tells other people about how they represented themselves and lost horribly. That story does not get shared. Don’t be tricked into thinking that something lawyers spend years learning in law school, and years more gaining experience with, is something you can figure out from Wikipedia research and what you see on TV.
The best way to find a lawyer is to ask around your community. It can sometimes be embarrassing to tell people that you have legal issues, but finding a professional you can trust will be worth it. Someone that has dealt with a lawyer first hand can tell you how they handled a case from start to finish. A language barrier between the client and lawyer can sometimes be an issue too, but there is a growing community of Tamil-speaking lawyers or those who work with excellent interpreters who can help you or your family members navigate these complex situations.
Here are some key things to look for in a lawyer: You want someone who is easy to get a hold of. Your legal issues may be only one of many cases to them, but it is the most important one to you. They should care about your case as much as you do. If you have trouble getting a hold of them personally at the start, it’s likely that it wont get any easier going forward. A lawyer that you are not able to connect with to ask important questions is not someone you want handling your legal issues.
They should also be able to communicate with you. Make sure you have ample time to talk to a lawyer when you first meet them. If you get a bad feeling from them, trust that instinct. The solicitor-client relationship is based on trust and if you can’t trust your lawyer from the beginning, it is unlikely you will develop that trust later on. They should be willing to meet with you as long and as many times as you need before you hire them. Someone who is rushing to push you out the door is more likely to be worried about how much money they can make rather than doing a quality job.
Finally, meet with as many lawyers as you can. No lawyer should pressure you into signing with them. Many lawyers do not charge a consultation fee, but be sure to ask before meeting them for the first time so you’re not surprised with a bill later. Ask tough questions and take notes. That way you will be able to compare what each has said before you make your final decision. I hope you found these tips helpful in the journey to choose the right lawyer for the job!