I sometimes speak to young lawyers starting out. They want to know how they can make themselves better lawyers throughout their career. Some of this is just ambition, but there’s also an honest desire to do the best work they can for their clients. I also often talk to those people who will become their clients who want to know how to know which lawyer is going to be best for them. There’s a lot you can say to both young lawyers and to their future clients. But, here’s a bit of advice that I think really goes far: go local.
Lawyers are far better for their clients and for their community when they settle into a place that feels like home and they stay there. A lawyer that is a part of the community cares more about their cases. They work harder for their clients. They also know the courts, the judges, and the other lawyers they’re going to come up against over and over again.
People always care more when their job affects the place they live. If you move around a lot or settle somewhere far from home, the people who come into your office aren’t your friends and neighbors, they’re strangers. Their problems feel more distant, less urgent, and less important. How can you commit yourself on every level to helping them when they are strangers harmed in a place that feels like business, not home? While it’s certainly possible, it is far more difficult.
If you are suspicious of this, just look at the rate of success for lawyers who remain local versus those who move around or have recently moved into the area. A great example of this is the Adams Law Firm. The lawyers there are 7th generation Texans, born and raised around Houston, where their firm is located.
How important does every case seem to them? Probably very important. An injury after a car accident is an injury their family could have suffered because those are their streets. A medical mistake could have happened to their neighbors or friends because those are their doctors and hospitals. That adds an extra level of passion and commitment, and that has surely made the lawyers at Adams Law Firm better lawyers overall.
As I said at the beginning, there are lots of ways to become a better lawyer when you’re starting out your career. And there are lots of ways to pick out a lawyer who will do a good job for you and your case. However, one simple way to be a good lawyer and to tell that someone is a good lawyer is to simply go local. As a lawyer, you’ll care more, and as a client, you’ll know your lawyer cares. It’s a win-win for everyone.