9 fundamental things that good lawyers have

There are a few dozen types of lawyers, and different practice areas have different skill sets. For example, what makes a good/bad trial lawyer may be different from what makes a good/bad transactional lawyer. (Read more: David Leon, licensed to practice in Texas (1996) and New York (2010). What makes a good lawyer? Answered April 27, 2016. https://www.quora.com/What-makes-a-good-lawyer)

That being said, here are some of the fundamentals:

Legal knowledge, and ability. Law is complicated. Laws are complex, convoluted and intertwined. If you know a practice area's statutes, plus the quirks that go along with the statutes, and the cases that interpret them, and the interactions with other areas, you're better than most. If you have the mental ability to parse these things out, and know how, when and where to look, you're ahead of the game. Some of law practice is knowing the law. Much of law practice is forcing your fact pattern to fit into that statute that doesn't quite address what you want. You also have to be able to ferret out what is actually relevant to the case and weed out what isn't relevant.

Ethics. If your lawyer has an attitude that, "I would rather be broke than disbarred" then you have a good lawyer. You don't want a lawyer taking a matter beyond their skill set, taking unnecessary risks, or forcing you to settle quickly, or over billing because they're worried about their light bill. Further, you don't really want a "win at all costs" lawyer, despite what TV and movies sell you. Sure, your lawyer could murder witnesses, forge documents, plant evidence and bribe public officials, but that might lead to bigger problems down the road.

Preparation and perspiration. I can't stress this one enough. Laziness is deadly in law practice. You skim the wrong pages in a document and miss something. You procrastinate and blow an important deadline. You show up to court and didn't do your homework, don't know that the case you're relying on was overturned on appeal, don't know the facts, didn't work up the case, etc.

Sense of appropriateness. This one is a little harder to explain. You want a lawyer who is capable of explaining cost benefit analysis to you. Sure you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a case. But if the amount in controversy is paltry, your lawyer didn't do you any favors by accepting and prosecuting the case when you weren't thinking clearly. Yes, you're mad that so and so caused a $100 scratch to the paint in your car. Did your lawyer really have to spend $100,000 prosecuting it?

Ability to communicate. You can have the smartest lawyer in the world. If s/he cannot communicate with you, or with opposing counsel, or a court, you may be in for a bad time. Lawyers only have words to sell. If you can't string them into a coherent thought, or put them together in such a way as to sell your point, you won't be that great of an advocate for your client--even if you know the law.

Candor. Many people think their lawyer should be their cheerleader. That's only true some of the time. Many times, your lawyer has to also has to give you a rather uncomfortable face slap of reality. If this is your ninth DWI, there's a video of you chugging a gallon of vodka at the red light camera as you swerve into traffic just before you hit the police car, don't expect to have a pleasant meeting at your lawyer's office. Sometimes your lawyer has to tell you things that your otherwise well meaning, but enabling, friends and family won't. Sometimes your lawyer has to be the one to tell you things aren't going to be okay.

Availability. Lawyers are busy. Law practice is busy. Many lawyers, great as they are, do not have the ability to say "no" even when they don't have the time to work up a case. Even if you have the best legal mind, but can't get around to returning your client's phone calls, you're not the best lawyer for the job.

Empathy. This one is difficult. A lawyer has to see things from the client's point of view, the opposing counsel's point of view and most importantly, what a neutral (judge/jury) will think. An even bigger skill set is to be able to talk to each side with their point of view in mind.

Reputation and respect. There are lawyers with great skills, but they're well known for being untrustworthy or impossible to work with. Trust and reputation go a long way. If you need an extension and opposing counsel is a well known jerk, guess who isn't getting that extension. If opposing counsel is a well known liar, no one will trust him/her when you need them to. A lawyer with a reputation for being trustworthy may be able to fix a problem with a phone call vs one who always has to settle things in the court room. (Read more: David Leon, licensed to practice in Texas (1996) and New York (2010). What makes a good lawyer? Answered April 27, 2016. https://www.quora.com/What-makes-a-good-lawyer)