You’ve decided that your business needs a lawyer, yet you’re not sure where to find one or how to pick a good one.
Recommendations from friends or colleagues are a good place to start. You could also contact the law firms whose newsletters you receive or seminars you go to (if you’ve followed my previous tip). Your local law society will also have a list of lawyers in your areas; many have websites with a “find a lawyer” option.
I would recommend interviewing more than one lawyer. If you were getting your kitchen redone you wouldn’t go with the first plumber who gave you a quote, you would probably get 3 quotes to compare prices and see who you were happy to have in your home. I would do the same with your lawyer until you have someone you will be happy to deal with over the lifetime of your business.
Now for some interview questions:
How do you charge?
There are two main ways that lawyers charge – by the hour or for a fixed fee.
When lawyers charge by the hour they are recording units of time, usually in 6 minute blocks, so you really do get what you pay for. Each lawyer will have their own charge out rate (e.g. $200 per hour) depending on their experience. This means that your final bill will be the charge out rate of the lawyer(s) who did the work multiplied by the time they actually worked.
If you choose this way you have every right to have a breakdown of the time once your work has been completed. From my experience it can be easier for the lawyers if you let them know this in advance of the work being started so they set up their billing in the right way.
You can negotiate a fixed fee for certain services, for example, buying a house, incorporating a company. Make sure with a fixed fee that you know exactly what is included so you don’t get any surprises.
What else do you do for your clients?
Some firms offer newsletters for their clients to keep them up to date with changes to the law. Others give free seminars.
Will you be doing my work?
Depending on the way the law firm is set up (and how large it is) the person you initially meet may not be the person who actually does the work for you. Your work may be delegated to a more junior lawyer (at a reduced charge out rate) who is then supervised. If this is to happen then the senior lawyer should explain this to you but I think it is worth asking.
I know that there is nothing that annoys a client more than to get emails or calls from a lawyer who they’ve not meet and had no idea was going to be doing the work for them. That and spelling their name wrong!
Do you have any other clients in my industry/sector/line of work?
In other words, “Do you have experience doing this kind of work?” Having a lawyer who has direct experience will mean they will know in advance the kinds of issues that your business is likely to face. This can mean reduced fees for you, as they can do the work knowledgably and quickly, and have the added bonus that they can update you on issues that you may not have been aware of.
What is your complaints process?
Lawyers are usually required to have a written complaints process so the answer itself shouldn’t be too exciting. What I would look for is how they answer. Is the process clear? Does the lawyer actually know it? Do they treat your question with respect?
How your potential lawyer answers your questions is as important as what they say. This person could be the trusted advisor for your business for years to come so it’s important that you feel comfortable with them.
Grab your free copy of the Legal Health workbook, designed to help you get clear on the legals you need in business, so you can begin to create a solid business foundation – and never have another sleepless night wondering if your legal ducks are in a row.
Disclaimer: This article is an educational resource designed to make you aware of some of the legal needs of your business. The information provided should be treated as a guide only and should not take the place of hiring a lawyer. Reading this article does not create a lawyer-client relationship between us. If you have a specific legal issue you need help with, you need to hire a lawyer.