People often ask me for recommendations for lawyers. It is very difficult to say who is "the best". "Best" is of course a difficult concept, all relative, and what is good for one is not for the other. Here are a few tips to pick your lawyer (the "top" man or woman). There are too many lawyers in Israel and not enough work to go around. Lawyers are getting into a bad habit of not turning away cases even if they are not fluent enough with the subject matter. You have to be careful. You want the best lawyer at a fair price. Choose wisely.
1. No friends. Stay clear of lawyers who are friends, family or neighbours. The man you like to chat with at synagogue will not necessarily be a good, professional and impartial lawyer . Communication with your lawyer is crucial, this does not mean you should be friends.
2. Recommendations. The best professional comes recommended by other professionals or anyone you trust. Ask around. Do not be shy to approach a lawyer and ask for a recommendation (you can ask me). Remember not to judge a lawyer by his or her public relations skills. I have seen so many lawyers, they are often in criminal law, who make a good "show", but just do not deliver the goods. Likewise lawyers with fancy websites or big adverts in the newspapers. By the way, the Israel Bar is not allowed to recommend lawyers so do not bother asking there. One of the best sources of information on lawyers are judges' clerks or secretaries. They see a wide selection of lawyers and see who manages to persuade the judge and get a result. Of course judges' clerks are forbidden to recommend anybody so do not tell anyone where you got this tip from!
3. Experts and non-experts. Lawyers in Israel can call themselves experts or specialists in just about any field of law they want. There is no control over this at all. Tomorrow morning I can call myself an expert on Afghani law or military law. A lawyer who calls him or herself a specialist might just be looking for work in that field and will not necessarily know anything about it. (I think this is a disgrace, imagine a cardiologist claiming to be a dentist!)
You have to pick the right lawyer with the right speciality, for you and your case. The best criminal lawyer will probably know nothing about land law. You may have seen that great lawyer representing the multi-national corporation, but the chances are that he or she knows nothing about traffic accidents.
4. Local. For many cases, choose a local lawyer. In particular land law, tax or crime. You really want someone who knows your town, tax inspector or police station. Also a local lawyer will know the judges, this is a big advantage. Sometimes the locality of your lawyer is irrelevant but for most small, private work - local is best. Also remember lawyers are cheaper out of the Tel Aviv area or Jerusalem.
5. Small or large. Law firms in Israel come many sizes. There are not too many large firms (20+ lawyers is large in Israel) and they are all in Tel Aviv or Ramat Gan doing international and corporate work. In the "provinces" 5 lawyers is a large firm. Actually if you see a bunch of names on the door of an office, or on the headed notepaper, the chances are that they are not in a real partnership but lawyers who share an office and expenses. Large firms in Israel have good resources and a pool of associates of various specialities. They are also very expensive and do not like taking on little cases. A one lawyer firm (the sole practitioner) will give you better value for money and more personal attention. But when you pick a sole practitioner you must make sure he or she is good and reliable because you are stuck with him or her.
Consumer Reports (an American consumer group) suggests that the following questions be asked at your first meeting with the lawyer you are considering retaining: • How many years of experience do you have in this speciality and how have you handled similar disputes in the past? • What are the possible results from pursuing this matter? • How long will you expect it to take to resolve this matter? • How will you keep me informed of what is happening as the case proceeds? • Will anyone else, such as one of your associates or paralegals, be working on my case? • Do you charge a flat or an hourly rate and how much? • What other expenses will there be besides your fee and how are they calculated? • What is a reasonable approximate figure for a total bill? • Can you give me a written estimate? • Can some of the work be handled by members of your staff at a lower rate? • Will unforeseen events increase the amount you charge me? • If you charge on a contingency basis (a percentage of the win), what proportion of the amount I recover will be paid to you as your fee and can this figure be calculated after the expenses are deducted? • How often will I be billed, and how are billing disputes resolved? If we cannot settle this, will you agree to mandatory arbitration? • Do you need any further information from me? • Can I do some of the work myself in exchange for a lower bill? • Do you recommend that this matter be submitted to an arbitrator or mediator, and do you know anyone qualified to do this?
There are no clear answers to these questions but the replies you receive will help you decide.
Regarding fees do not go to a lawyer without reading my article on this.
Please, without hesitation, contact me and I will help you find you a lawyer.
Law in Israel
שאול דיוויס עו"ד