What to Look for in an Effective Lawyer


We wish to thank the Honorable Larry M. Boyle, U.S. District Chief Magistrate Judge for granting use permission to re-print the following portion of his book, The Traits, Qualities and Characteristics of Highly Effective Lawyers.

The Honorable Larry M. Boyle, U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge for the District of Idaho, has made the following observations concerning his opinion of effective attorneys.  Judge Boyle's observations are based on his years in private practice and as a judge.

Integrity and Honesty

A forthright, trustworthy, and reasonable lawyer is a great asset to a client.  Any departure from these principles cannot be excused or justified as zealous advocacy.  Once a judge or lawyer has been initially mislead by another attorney, confidence and trust is lost or damaged.  Once trust and respect has been lost, it is often difficult to restore.

When trust and respect are present counsel are able to work cooperatively, are generally in a better position to reach a fair, balanced resolution of a dispute at substantially less financial and emotional cost to the client, and, as a result, are far more likely to resolve a dispute without necessary court intervention.  Clients should expect their attorneys to be honest in dealing with them and with the court.


Competency is built upon a foundation of quality education, training, mentoring, thoroughness, preparation, experience, punctuality, and continuing development of skills and abilities.  Competency is not always measured by financial success.  Competency is a developed trait, and when combined with intelligence, integrity, and honesty, will surely lead to trust, effectiveness, respect, and success.  Clients should expect their legal counsel to be highly competent.


an effective attorney is always well prepared.  A prepared attorney always researches controlling law and gathers facts before making demands on other parties or commencing an action.

Moreover, a prepared attorney studies and reviews a client's file, affidavits, submissions, and briefs several days before the scheduled court proceeding and then again the day or afternoon before the court appearance.  A prepared attorney always seeks resolution in a cost-effective manner that is mutually beneficial to both parties while strongly advocating his and her client's position.  Clients should expect their legal counsel to be well prepared.

Professionalism & Civility

A professional attorney is both courteous and civil with opposing counsel, his or her client, and the court.  A professional attorney communicates with opposing counsel on a regular, frequent basis to keep the case or transaction moving.  The "meanest SOB" or the "bulldog" is not necessarily the most effective attorney.  Oftentimes such tactics do not advance the client's interest.  Similarly, courts are not impressed with attorneys who waste the court's time with matters that could be reasonably settled.

In addition, a professional attorney communicates with clients on a regular basis to report on the status and any new developments in the client's case.  Furthermore, a professional attorney responds to a client's telephone calls and requests in a timely manner.  A professional attorney always listens to and learns from the client's questions and concerns.  Clients should expect their attorneys to be professional and civil in handling their legal matter.