PROFESSIONAL SERVICES: What to expect from your attorney

It may seem a daunting task to find the right lawyer in Northern Michigan. Simply open the phone book (or look on the back) and lawyers in all shapes and sizes fly out at you like Wizard of Oz monkeys.

But there is a resource that I’m about to summarize that will assist you in knowing that you have the right lawyer and are receiving adequate representation.

In his book entitled, “A Good Lawyer,” Stephen W. Comiskey, an ex-Marine living in Virginia, implores his fellow lawyers to live up to high standards. He states that the lawyer business still is and always will be a service-oriented business. He believes lawyers should incorporate the Marine Corps Leadership traits into their practice: Integrity, Knowledge, Courage, Decisiveness, Dependability, Initiative, Tact, Justice, Enthusiasm, Bearing, Endurance, Unselfishness, Loyalty, Judgment.

He further states, “lawyers are the custodian of the ideals of our society and our countrymen justifiably expect only our best in return for the privilege of being licensed to practice law.” Comiskey has created a set of guideposts that serve lawyers in their daily jobs. I’ve adopted several of these and tailored them so clients can use them as a benchmark in evaluating their lawyer.


Clients should expect a lawyer who presents alternatives to litigation. Lawyers should be able to create and propose legitimate solutions to get the client to the desired end result. Due to its cost, litigation should be a last resort.


Expect a lawyer to KNOW who their client is. The client is the one paying the bill; he/she should expect the lawyer to not only remember who they are, but know them and their business almost intimately.


Expect an attorney to tell the client honestly and realistically whether they can help the client get what they want. At the initial meeting, the lawyer should be telling the client, “I can help you get what you want or I cannot help you.”

A lawyer should be honest as to the client’s chances in litigation, and not “snow” them into paying a large retainer to later discover that their claim had no merit.


Clients should expect their attorneys to be open and up front about their experience in the subject of the client’s representation. Clients should expect their lawyers to have rock solid experience and knowledge in their practice areas. If they don’t, the lawyer should be able to refer them to another lawyer. Chances are there is an attorney in northern Michigan who has experience in the matter of the client’s representation.


A client should expect to leave their lawyer’s office without worrying about their legal problem.


A client should expect that all information will be held in the strictest of confidence.


Lawyers should not be too busy that they neglect to keep their clients informed. Expect a lawyer to promptly return phone calls, and to listen.


A lawyer should expect many questions about the estimate of cost of the entire representation. An experienced lawyer can provide some notion of the potential fee. Clients should also expect detailed fee information in their billings.


Especially in a business setting, clients should have the ability to ask their lawyer questions. The lawyer serves the business, as does any other employee, and should be held accountable to the company as such.

These guidelines should assist the client in maintaining an effective, and hopefully successful, relationship with their lawyer. Clients who are uncomfortable with their attorney, or if the chemistry is just not right, should not hesitate to find other counsel.

Ken Artz is an attorney with the Traverse City law offices of Menmuir, Zimmerman, Kuhn, Taylor and Quandt, PLC. His practice focuses on intellectual property matters, specifically trademark and copyright issues, business law, real estate law, and commercial and civil litigation. BN