As I mentioned in the 10 Rules on Finding a Good Lawyer, I think that experience is overrated. Nonetheless, it seems an important criterion for some clients.
So, here is a simple test to determine a lawyer’s experience: you have to approach a lawyer in a non-professional setting (a barbecue, a walk in the park, a birthday party or a first date) and ask a legal question.
You will find that they/we broadly fall into three categories.
The first lawyer will readily analyze your case, offer his/her/its/their [in the interest of readability, please allow me to abbreviate this to “his” or, depending on grammatical context, “he” or “him” without meaning to imply that lawyers that would by definition of nature, gender, personality, coincidence or preference wish to be referred to by other pronouns should be excluded, dismissed, disregarded or relegated] advice, offer to do more research and send you an e-mail at 2 o’clock of the same night with a three-page brief outlining the legal situation and recommending a course of action, usually involving filing a lawsuit.
=> This lawyer is a rookie, probably still in or fresh out of law school. He is still highly motivated and thinks that lawyers change the world and that your case is important enough to go to the Supreme Court and for him to spend his whole night on.
The second lawyer will tell you: “I’ll be happy to help. Please send me an e-mail and I’ll set up an appointment at my office.”
=> This lawyer already has some years of experience and has advanced in his career. He has realized that he won’t go far by dispensing free advice. He’ll gladly help you, but not for free. This is nothing personal, but he is becoming a bit weary of people who think that a lawyer should work for free while clients pay their barber, bartender and bus driver.
The third lawyer will either quote an outrageous fee, (mis)inform you that he is already booked out until July 2019 or tell you that he has more important things to do than looking over your lease contract or settling your eBay dispute.
=> Congratulations! You have found a lawyer with a ton of both professional and life experience. How you can benefit from this depends more on you than on the lawyer.