People often hesitate to hire young lawyers. Alongside an attorney whose resume touts his 30+ years of experience, the newer lawyer may be disfavored. But there are several key reasons why you should consider hiring a young estate planning attorney.
According to a study reported in The Practical Lawyer, a publication of American Bar Association, the top three complaints that clients have about their lawyers are: 1) Cost and Billing; 2) Lack of Response; and 3) Incompetence.[i] A younger lawyer may minimize these gripes for the following reasons.
1. Cheaper Cost and Billing.
It is no mystery that legal services can be expensive. California lawyers have a duty to charge a fee that takes into consideration factors regarding the case, the subject matter, the relative difficulty, etc. Chief among these considerations is the lawyer’s own experience.[ii] A younger attorney will have less experience by virtue of his or her age, and will therefore bill at a lesser rate than older colleagues with over 30 years experience.
The savvy client may rationalize that the higher price for an older attorney is due to that attorney’s quality, work product, diligence, or efficiency. While these characteristics are crucial for any working professional, they should never be assumed to exist simply based on a higher cost. “Experience” is not always a synonym for “competence.” More on this below.
The Bay Area is huge and there are many lawyers to choose from. In a competitive economy, individuals and businesses alike must manage their budgets so that personal wealth and profit margins grow (or at least remain steady). Saving money on your estate plan, entity formation, or even on the legal expense of settling a loved one’s estate, can be achieved through younger, cheaper representation.
2. Shorter Response Time, More Efficient Communication
Attorneys need clients to make money. It’s a fact. While a large client base may directly serve the attorney’s needs, it doesn’t necessarily serve the client. Older attorneys with large books of business are divided between those clients. Unfortunately and often times to the detriment of the client, attorneys simply cannot keep up with client communication.
Younger attorneys and specifically newer firms are hungry for your business. Not only do they have time to devote to your matters, but they also have the time to give you the full attention you deserve. Answering phone calls, emails, and being available to meet is more feasible for the young lawyer than it is for the guy with tons of clients vying for his time.
In the estate planning context, the lawyer you choose has the potential to be involved in legal matters for the rest of your life and beyond. With that in mind, young lawyers in this particular field have an incentive to build and maintain strong bonds and relationships well into the future.
Competence is a lawyer’s utmost responsibility. As stated above, years of experience does not necessarily guarantee competence. In fact, young lawyers bring innovation, information, and a certain aggressiveness to the table that can yield the same legal results as older colleagues.
You might be surprised by a young attorney’s ability to find new solutions to old problems. Being closer to his or her law school years, a young lawyer may be intimately familiar with a new tax law, for example, that directly affects your matter. While reinventing the wheel won’t always be necessary, a fresh pair of eyes may add value to your case in an unexpected, innovative way. The bottom line is that you don’t have to sacrifice quality or competence when you hire a younger lawyer.
There is no magic formula by which to choose a lawyer. While experience is a valuable attribute and should always be considered, it should not be the sole determining factor for your decision. Instead, you should make a well-rounded, informed choice, keeping in mind whether you feel a prospective attorney will meet your legal needs and goals.
This post was written by Allie Etchebehere, Esq. and is intended for informational/educational purposes only.
[i] Jeffrey Miller et al., The Top Five Reasons Why Clients Leave and How You Can Prevent It, April 2008 The Practical Lawyer 53, 54-55.
[ii] Cal. R. Prof. Conduct 4-200(B)(8).