The Importance of Hiring a Local Attorney
Nobody ever really wants to hire a lawyer, but the reality is that at some point you'll need to hire one. The problem is that if you've never hired an attorney, and you have no frame of reference, where do you look for one? The answer is almost always going to be to hire locally. But why does it matter if you hire a local West Texas–Permian Basin lawyer versus an attorney from Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, or Corpus Christi?
When it comes to choosing an attorney, the advantages of preferring local counsel are different, but no less valid. Here we highlight the top 5 reasons to hire a local attorney:
She or he knows the area
She or he knows the people who matter
She or he knows the rules, written and unwritten
It saves you money
She or he knows the value of reputation
It’s more convenient for you and your attorney, which saves you money
Reason #1: Insider Knowledge
Working locally is a big advantage for an attorney. When you describe your situation, the local attorney can see how all the pieces fit together before the process even starts.
If you were in a wreck, your local attorney knows that intersection or stretch of roadway, how busy it is, if there a things blocking a driver's vision, and if it is known for wrecks. When it comes to oilfield and on-the-job accidents, your local attorney knows if you had to wait for an ambulance or meet the ambulance some place between location and the hospital, and what people should have been on location.
Folks in the Permian Basin know the oil and gas industry is unique. We take for granted just how much we all know about what good oil and gas companies and their related service companies do. So, we know what happens when the fly-by-night or the fast-buck folks skip steps and jeopardize everyone's safety.
Attorneys from outside can learn these and the other things they need. But, are they going to miss something important along the way, maybe not even know to ask about a particular piece of evidence, that somehow is lost by the time the realize it? Outsiders don't have Permian Basin in their bones.
Reason #2: Knowing the Right People
Local attorneys know the judges, the court clerks, the courtroom cadence, and opposing lawyers. Insurance companies tend to hire the same defense lawyers over and over. When you regularly practiced in an area, you get to know them. Legal problems are resolved by people, not machines.
Regularly trying cases in an area teaches a lawyer a lot. A local lawyer knows her neighbors. When it comes time to pick a jury, understanding where the potential juror is coming from is crucial.
When you hire an attorney outside of West Texas–Permian Basin, that individual may have never met the judge they'll be appearing in front of, they may not know their personality, behavior, likes & dislikes, or the way they run their courtroom. Local attorneys attend local mixers, conferences, and social events and get the opportunity to develop a rapport with judges and other local attorneys. This should not be misconstrued as a judge favoring a local lawyer, because they do not. But it is easier for an attorney to prepare and position your case when they know the personalities of the judge and the opposing attorney.
Knowing the people involved and how they have handled similar situations in the past is invaluable in many ways. For instance, some arguments are more persuasive to one judge than to another. Every case has its strong and weak points. Knowledge of the courtroom and the players involved helps an attorney know which buttons to push to present your case in the best light. Hiring an attorney who's never met the judge assigned to your case or the opposing counsel, and who doesn't know the local courtroom flow may be considered to be at a slight disadvantage.
Reason #3: Adhering to the Right Rules
Every court has its own specific rules of practice. The rules are extensive, and some are more faithfully adhered to than others. Out here, we have an unwritten set of rules the local lawyers and judges refer to as "The West Texas Rules." It's about how we treat each other and what is considered alright to say in motions filed with the courts. A non-local attorney can quickly offend the judge and draw a rebuke for not knowing a particular rule.
Rules can range from whether to stand when addressing the judge to knowing who must appear at a hearing. What it comes down to is that there are simply too many courts with too many rules to know them all. A local attorney will understand the rules of the local court better than a visiting attorney ever will.
Reason #4: Reduced Costs for You
Hiring a local attorney can actually reduce the costs of your case. When you hire an attorney, you ultimately pay for their time and the money (costs and expenses) they spend on your case. It’s in your best interest to reduce the amount of costs billed to you.
For example, in an oilfield explosion, both sides are going to hire experts to figure out what happened. There will be that cost regardless where your lawyer is from.
But, if you hire an attorney from out of town, you will ultimately pay for your lawyer's airfares, car rentals, mileage, hotels, and meals when the attorney travels out for hearings, inspections, and depositions on your case. Most judges in West Texas require in-person hearings and do not allow Zoom or Skype. That means an out of town lawyer has to travel for everything, or decide it's not worth fighting, and you pay all those expenses at the end of the case.
When you hire a local attorney many of these costs are mitigated or eliminated because it's not eating up the attorney's time or budget. Hiring a local attorney means more money remains in your pocket because your attorney won’t have to travel to represent you.
Reason #5: Having a Strong Reputation in the Community
Reputation is important in the practice of law. If you spend much time in a court, you will quickly see which attorneys have high regard (and which don’t). Local attorneys are more likely to take special care to maintain a positive reputation in their home court. They are more likely to come prepared with a thorough, strategic approach to advance your rights. This is not true for outside attorneys who may never appear in that court again.
An article from Entrepreneur says, "Local business owners often have incentive to support other local businesses, patronizing local establishments for both business and personal reasons." Local attorneys are your neighbors and they hire local people as support staff, pay local taxes, shop at local stores, eat at local restaurants, and hire local service providers. When you hire a lawyer from Dallas or San Antonio, the dollars you spend support their local community, not ours.
Rachel Ambler is on the board of the Odessa Public Arts Committee. She provides pro bono legal services in Midland and Odessa. She is a regular donor to the West Texas Food Bank, supports local high schools athletic programs, and supports other organizations in our area.
Reason #6: Convenient Location and Greater Access
The last reason why a local attorney is preferable to a non-local is convenience. If an attorney’s primary office is 250 miles away, he or she may be reluctant to meet with you regularly. There is also something to be said for being able to walk into your attorney's office when you want and travel from your lawyer’s office to the court in a matter of minutes. The convenience of being on your attorney’s home turf can make the process less stressful.
There's a trend that's been taking place in the last several years. Law firms from big cities like Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston have been setting up "Satellite" offices in the Midland-Odessa so they can have a local telephone number and office address. They want to give the impression that they're a local firm in ads and billboards and appear in the local business section of Google. More often than not, there's usually no one there to staff the "satellite" full time or maybe just one, very lonely, receptionist. Often times their "local" office is little more than a desk, printer and a telephone. So when you need to see your lawyer, they would have to drive or fly in from Dallas, San Antonio, or wherever to meet you. How often do you really think that happens?
Local lawyers are typically more accessible because you can drop something off at their office and leave it with their staff, stop by if you have a question or concern, or make an appointment that isn't limited to one afternoon on the only day the attorney is in town.
A Final Note: It's Trust and Confidence, Because Bigger Isn't Always Better
Some people think a bigger law firm will get them a better result. Hiring a large firm does not necessarily mean a larger settlement or a better result. Large firms often have bigger caseloads than small firms. They have a lot of mouths to feed. Often they need cases to move and settle, just to keep the lights on.
It’s important to find an attorney that has time to give your case personal attention. They should also be willing to take time to educate you on the process and applicable law. The right attorney for your case will make sure you fully understand your legal rights. The right attorney is going to demand the best settlement for you, or they will take your case to trial, because they're not being pressured to get your case closed and get their fee in the door.
It’s a common misconception the best attorneys are at the biggest law firms in the biggest cities. The truth is, you can find great attorneys just about anywhere. In fact, today’s leading law school graduates, those looking to make a difference rather than make a fortune, are taking jobs in small firms that allow them to have personal relationships with their clients.
Rachel Ambler is a dedicated and experienced West Texas–Permian Basin accident and personal injury lawyer. She lives here and fights here. She can help you navigate the trying times following an accident, and works to get you what you are entitled to.
When you've been hurt in an accident, slip and fall, or in the oilfield, that's exactly what you want. Call AmblerLaw today, 432.203.0303.