How to Choose and Use AttorneysBy Nina Kaufman, Esq.
I have vivid (and not always pleasant) memories of the dating scene. There’s a huge amount of pressure to find “the right one.” But how can you know? Who’s really ideal for you?
The answers to those questions take a certain amount of introspection. First, you have to know your needs and desires. Do you want to be with someone who lives locally or are you willing to move? Do they need to be handy around the house — or in the kitchen? Is financial stability (and therefore, their earning potential) important to you? Does it matter if they have children from a prior relationship?
Next, there’s the chemistry factor. It reminds me of the old Jewish joke of the man in his early 30s whose mother was desperate for him to be married. He was very picky. He had a list of 99 qualities that his ideal bride had to have. One day, he burst in the door and exclaimed to his mother, “Ma! I’ve met her! I’ve met a woman who’s got all 99 qualities. She meets every one on my list!” The mother breathed a heavy sigh of relief and cries, “Thank God! When’s the wedding?” The son replies, “Wedding? There’s no wedding. I can’t stand her!”
Choosing professional advisors for your company (you knew I’d come around to that eventually, didn’t you?) is not much different. As I mention in my program, “How to Choose and Use Attorneys,” you have to be very clear about your personal needs and feel comfortable with the “chemistry” you have with the advisor. For some reason, entrepreneurs seem stymied when it comes to knowing what questions to ask so that they make the right choice. For example, you’ll want to know:
- Do you practice in my state? I routinely get e-mails from business owners around the country looking to hire me. However, attorneys are licensed on a state-by-state basis. As a result, if I’m not licensed in your state, I can’t ethically practice your law.
- What’s your background and experience with my issues? We all know that lawyers are more expensive than a cup of coffee at the local deli. When you make the financial investment in legal advice, you want to be sure that the person “has the goods.” Ask for examples of issues handled.
- How do you charge? Yes, lawyers tend to bill by the hour, but more and more, they are developing pricing on a project or monthly retainer basis. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for the numbers, as well as an estimate of what you think it will cost to handle your issues.
- Who’s doing the work? You may have a great rapport with a particular attorney, but depending on the firm, she may not be the one actually doing your work. You want to know how your matters will be handled. (That can affect your costs, as well.)
- Finally, there’s “chemistry.” Especially for smaller businesses, professional relationships are vital for their survival. You need someone responsive. You’ll want to feel very comfortable picking up the phone or sending an e-mail when you have questions or need something explained. Plus, you want to get a sense that you will be well taken care of — not just shoved to the back room because you’re not generating $1 million a year for the firm.
Want to learn more about Kaufman Business Law? This is the video to watch.