Five Tips to Effectively Engage and Use Legal Counsel
Like it or not, most business owners, corporations, individuals, banks, insurance firms, corporate’s will require legal counsel from time to time. In most circumstances, using legal counsel will be in the context of civil or criminal dispute, some commercial transaction etc. In either case, you can make a difference in how effectively you work with legal counsel and in keeping the costs down. Here are five tips to consider:
Tip 1 – Engage the Right Attorney – When engaging an lawyer, be sure to get someone who has experience with your particular need. Too many business owners engage “a lawyer” without understanding that there are vast differences in skill sets and experiences of different lawyers. Don’t use your brother-in-law, the criminal defense lawyer, to help with your commercial or corporate dispute, for example. You’ll save time and money and get better representation in the long run if you choose someone experienced in what you need.
To find the right lawyer, ask for recommendations from other business owners or friends (with business experience) and then check websites for relevant experience. When you meet with a potential lawyer or law firm, ask lots of questions on the front end and make sure he or she has handled work similar to yours before you engage him or her.
Tip 2 – Communicate Clearly – Before talking to your lawyer or law firm, get organized and make sure you can convey succinctly and clearly what it is you need help with and when you need it. Too many clients dive into preliminary conversations or send cryptic e-mails leaving their lawyer confused about what they need.
Tip 3 – Consider Asking for a Flat Fee – Many lawyers & law firms will consider flat fees for well-defined projects. If a client needs a document from me and production of that document is within my control, then I think a flat fee is reasonable to ask for. If, on the other hand, I’m going to be involved in negotiations with some third-party that I’ve never met, it’s harder to quote a flat fee. But it never hurts to explore this option.
Tip 4 – Be Responsive – I find that I am most efficient when I can sit down and knock out a project in a short amount of time. However, I often start a project and then get stalled waiting on my client to get back to me with information or to answer questions. That means when I pick back up, the project is not as fresh in my mind and it takes more time to finish it off. We all know business owners work long hours, but the more responsive you can be the better in terms of getting a good service at an efficient price.
Tip 5 – Give Feedback – The best relationships between lawyer and client are those where the parties frequently talk to each other. From the lawyer’s perspective, we can give better service when we know you and your business better and your feedback is important in this process. If you like (or dislike) how your lawyer has handled something, let him know. The dialog will create a better relationship and service for you.