5 Most Important Questions to Ask Court Appearance Attorneys

by Jana
Nov 02, 2021

The relatively recent advent of contract appearance counsel has helped to boost efficiency and productivity for all types of law firms. Being able to rely on court appearance professionals can free up your in-house staff to focus on matters that can help drive revenue to the firm. Your attorneys can have more time to spend with clients or have additional time to do any necessary research to help bolster your client’s case. While many comparisons have been made concerning the use of freelance attorneys and the gig economy, your firm will obviously want to be a bit more diligent when working with appearance counsel then you would be using a rideshare service following an office happy hour. With those concerns in mind, here are five questions your firm should always ask before you agree to hire a freelance lawyer.

1. Is the Attorney in Good Standing with the State Bar?

This question may seem obvious, but things that are obvious are often overlooked. Your firm could simply ask a potential court appearance attorney whether they are in good standing with the bar where they are licensed, but taking their answer at face value could prove to be a foolish proposition. You could consider asking to see their most recent attorney’s license, but that hard copy isn’t going to give you any information regarding possible disciplinary measures after the license was issued. Your firm could also put in the additional work to perform a background check to ensure that everything is in order, but doing so might eliminate the time and cost savings you were hoping to achieve by using the services of court appearance professionals.

Concerns involving an appearance counsel’s good standing can be resolved when you work with a trusted service such as Docketly. The freelance attorneys who are listed on Docketly’s site must be in good standing with their state bar. Docketly keeps all of the paperwork involving an attorney’s good standing and license to practice on file. In addition, this is not simply a box that is checked once and then forgotten about. The team of professionals at Docketly actually updates their freelance attorneys’ standing every four weeks, along with any updates to an attorney’s disciplinary history and potential administrative sanctions, when applicable. Your firm can proceed with confidence knowing that the court appearance attorneys you are working with do not have a disciplinary cloud hanging over their heads.

2. Is the Attorney Covered by Malpractice Insurance?

The last thing your law firm needs is for a court appearance attorney to make a serious error that leads to a malpractice claim. It’s even worse if you discover that the freelance attorney you hired wasn’t adequately covered by malpractice insurance or, in fact, had no malpractice insurance whatsoever. This could lead to your firm holding the bag and premiums are expensive enough without having to have your insurance policy pay out on a claim. Once again, you may be left in the position of wasting time investigating whether the court appearance professional you are working with has malpractice insurance.

When you hire an appearance attorney through Docketly, you can rest easy knowing that the person your firm is working with has malpractice insurance. Even if the appearance attorney does not have a personal insurance policy, Docketly offers an umbrella malpractice insurance policy to all appearance attorneys who are listed on their platform. You can put to bed any nightmares you may have about your firm ending up on the hook in the rare event appearance counsel commits a colorable claim of legal malpractice.

3. Is Your Appearance Counsel Experienced?

The American Bar Association considers any attorney who is licensed and in good standing to be competent to practice in most areas of law. While this may be true, you probably don’t want to work with appearance counsel who is fresh out of law school and has never stepped foot in a courtroom before. You could take them at their word that they have experience handling the types of things your firm needs, but it’s always risky to take the words of a stranger at face value.

Once again, Docketly can help remove any concerns you may have about trusting your firm’s important legal matters to a lawyer who is still green. When you are looking at an attorney’s profile on Docketly, you can see how many cases they have handled and how many appearances they have covered. When it comes to measuring experience, Docketly employs a tier ranking system. An attorney ranked at tier one in a certain practice has the least amount of experience, while an attorney who falls into tier three has the most experience. You can even filter search results if you wish to exclude lawyers who fall into tier one for your firm’s needs.

Docketly also employs a similar tier ranking system when it comes to the type of hearing an attorney is qualified to handle. For example, a basic docket call would fall into tier one, whereas a contested bench trial would fall into tier three. This approach helps ensure that an attorney who is ranked in tier one will not get assigned to a matter that is classifed as tier three.

4. Does Your Appearance Counsel Represent Parties on Both Sides?

There are some lawyers who represent both plaintiffs and defendants. While there is nothing unethical in doing so, this is a fact that most attorneys who represent both sides would rather not advertise. Doing so can make clients wary. If, for example, your law firm works with creditors exclusively, you may wish to avoid working with an attorney who also provides debtor representation. Appearance counsel should give you the time needed to better serve your clients, not turn them off of your business.

Docketly actively checks the attorney network for debtor representation. You can exclude attorneys who represent debtors from working for certain clients, or you can use this as a custom compliance setting for all of your hearings.

5. Can Your Attorney Pass a Background Check?

You probably don’t want to waste the time and expense that comes with running a background check on an appearance attorney, especially if you need assistance at the last minute. The good news is Docketly can perform a background check upon a law firm’s request. Appearance attorneys who have passed a background check can even make note of this on their profile, saving your firm even more valuable time. You can also download evidence of a passed background check directly from the audit tool itself.

Is Docketly the Right Fit for Our Law Firm?

This last question is one that can be easily answered. You can schedule a demo with the team at Docketly to find out more about our breadth of service and how we can help law firms save time and build their client base. With more than 10,000 attorneys in our database, it has never been easier to hire a freelance lawyer who can best suit the needs of your law firm.

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