On a day-to-day level I deal with a lot of different lawyers, almost all of them Oregon elder law lawyers. These lawyers come in all shapes in sizes. Some are laid back and easy going. Others are high strung and tense. Some are cynical, others are true believers. This range of personalities allows you as a potential client to find a lawyer with a temperament and approach that matches your own. Often a good temperamental match between the lawyer and the client is more important than the lawyers skill or prestige in the legal community. You may want a bulldog for a lawyer, or an intellectual, or maybe a natural-born mediator. But the one thing you never want is a busy lawyer.
Being busy is not a function of how successful a lawyer is or how much business he or she may have at the moment. It is not a reflection of the lawyer’s commitment to his profession or his family or his community. Being busy is a life-style choice. The busy lawyer was a busy something else before he became a lawyer and has probably been busy since he was ten years old. It is part of his temperament and an integral part to his view of life. It is a personal value, and like the workaholic, the busy lawyer believes in his heart, that his way of living busily is morally superior to the alternatives. I won’t opine on the moral question, but I can assure you that if you need a lawyer who will respond to your needs, you don’t want to hire a busy one.
Busy lawyers fail to return phone calls, take weeks to get your work done, miss appointments, and fail to get their documents written until the last moment. They cost you money when they don’t prepare in time to make negotiated solutions possible. They fail to keep you fully informed of the progress of your case, and they are seldom available when you have questions. They repeatedly justify these behavior's by telling you how busy they are.
Don’t hire these folks. Busy lawyers are never going to become non-busy. It is not a temporary condition, it is personal ethos that the person has developed over a long time. Perhaps, because they are busy, they do in the end accomplish a lot. That does not mean you should let one of them be your lawyer. You want someone who has the time to respond to your needs; someone who will complete your legal work or conduct your case with careful, unhurried consideration. You pay a lot for a lawyer. You shouldn’t put out that kind of money for one who is busy.
When considering who to hire as your Oregon elder law lawyer, I suggest asking directly about their busy-ness. “How busy are you?” “Will you be available to answer my questions?” “Do you have ample time to do the work necessary in this case?” The answer will give you a look into the the way the lawyer operates. If the lawyer is very busy and seems proud of it, go elsewhere. If the lawyer is very busy, but can assure you that it is a temporary condition brought about by her poor time management—a condition that will be remedied in the near future—consider the person. If the person is not busy and seems to manage time in a way that will always leave some of it for you, you may have a winner. You want a lawyer who has the time, the inclination, and the ability to carefully conduct your case, one who will return your calls and answer your questions, one who takes her time with life and her cases. Let the busy lawyer change the world, but don’t put him in charge of your case.