How To Hire the Best Attorney for Your Business
How To Hire the Best Attorney for Your Business
5 Critical Questions To Ask
By Sarita Smithee
Once you’ve decided you want to work with a business attorney, it’s important to choose the right one for you. Just like any other person you do business with, your attorney should be someone you trust and can communicate with. There are five critical areas you should address in your initial interviews with a business attorney:
- Are you experienced? Don’t be hesitant to ask direct questions about an attorney’s experience. If you know you want to draft new subcontracts, for example, ask if he has ever handled that type of work. While it might be cheaper to hire an attorney fresh out of law school, it is often worthwhile to pay more for a firm who has experience with your industry. Part of this inquiry should include reviewing the firm’s website and attorney’s biography to see if it seems like they would be a good fit for your legal matters.
- How do you communicate? Evaluate the attorney’s communication style. Remember, if you are ever involved in a lawsuit, your attorney is going be the only point of contact between you and the parties on the other side. For this reason, you and your attorney need to have compatible communication styles, whether this is by e-mail, telephone, or meetings in person. You and your attorney should agree about how frequent communication should be for both of you to be comfortable and confident.
- Do we get along? Because your attorney is going to be a trusted advisor and your legal representative, it’s important that your personalities mesh. Attorneys, like any other people, have their own styles, and you and your attorney will need to be on the same page. For instance, if your legal concern involves a dispute with a general contractor, you need to know if your attorney will take an aggressive and unyielding approach, or if his goal is only to reach a settlement. Your attorney should always be responsive to your needs, as those may change, but your basic views of a dispute should be compatible. When you meet an attorney for an interview, discuss more than just your legal concerns to determine if you two mesh well.
- What is your billing structure? There are a variety of fee structures available to clients. Most attorneys require a “retainer” (an amount paid up front) and bill per hour for their time and for expenses thereafter. Expenses typically include court costs, filing fees, and records services.Other attorneys charge flat fees for certain types of work, and this fee may or may not include charges for expenses. Some attorneys have the flexibility to combine different types of billing structures depending on what works best for the client. You should always ask for a written copy of the billing agreement and have the attorney explain it to you in detail before you enter into an engagement.Make sure you understand what expenses you are responsible for, and what is included in the hourly or flat fee you are paying the attorney. Also make sure that the attorney agrees to provide notice to you when any large expenses are anticipated before they are billed to you. This includes, for example, out-of-town depositions, which can end up costing several thousand dollars in expenses. Always let your attorney know immediately if you believe you have been billed in error.
- Does your law firm use advanced technology? Not that long ago, law firms documented all of the details of a case by pen and paper. Some attorneys, in fact, still use this method to maintain their case files. This method is outdated and unworkable in today’s high-tech world, and your law firm should employ state-of-the-art technology, such as advanced case-management systems. Advanced case-management systems are important for several reasons:
- Many courts now require that all pleadings be submitted electronically;
- It gives you increased privacy and confidentiality;
- It keeps your case file protected from fire, break-ins, or being lost;
- It allows your attorney to create professional and dynamic court presentations.
Sarita Smithee is an associate with The Beckham Group in Dallas, Texas. The Beckham Group has extensive experience with, and specializes in, business litigation both as a Plaintiff and a Defendant. The firm drafts and prosecutes/defends civil cases involving numerous types of contracts, and has just about seen it all.
Vince – the blogger’s Reality Bite: At all costs avoid what I like to call “Jack Legged” attorneys – those are the ones that have no malpractice insurance. These guys who don‘t carry insurance typically don’t because they are not financially able and there will be no recourse for you if they screw up.
Also, make sure that your attorney is able to explain legal concepts in a way that a laymen can understand. If he or she can’t, then you should seriously question their expertise. An expert should be able to break a concept down to a level that you can understand regardless of your current level of understanding.
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