The best practice for choosing the right attorney is to develop a long term relationship. If you have a trusted relationship developed with an attorney that has broad enough experience, this is an article you will never need. That attorney will be able to assist you or even bring in the appropriate help where necessary. The five questions you want to ask are questions that you will not find in bar journals. These are not questions posed by marketing professionals.
The information age has ushered in the creation of hypothetical specialism. This is the creation of specialists by marketing professionals where the specialization really does not exist. When choosing an attorney, this is what you need to ask:
Experience of your attorney should be broad based as you want an attorney that has enough experience to deal with the various issues that you need. These issues range from the ability to resolve any issue that you have and guide you in the proper direction. It is not a matter of experience in your particular type of situation as every situation is unique. Every case is unique. You need to know if your attorney and/or the firm have experience in civil litigation, negotiations of large contracts, asset protection and business guidance.
Is this a one shot deal or is this an attorney that is going to be there when you need them full-time for the rest of your life? Is this is a relationship based attorney that can handle all of your legal needs and help you move forward? There is not a lot of incentive to truly care for a client that is only going to be in the door one time and never return. Can this attorney become your most trusted confidante?
Will you get partnership attention or will you be handed off to low level associates and assistants. Having associates and assistants perform work is essential, but having the experienced partner stay directly involved is critical. An experienced and well versed attorney will swim to the bottom of the pool and find the jewels where associates will cling to the edges.
The practice of law is headed in the same direction as the medical profession. Some of the best doctors are becoming concierge type doctors where you will not be able to get into to see them unless you are a private client. Having that relationship with your attorney up front gives you the ability to be able to become the private client. Of course, you must understand that you have to pay for the relationship in order to be this type of client, but do not be in a situation where you may need someone and knew them five years prior, but they are too busy for you now.
This is particular to the relationship because you can always shop around and find cheaper. Many of our articles are about the consequences of trying to find the cheapest because it does not work out. This is not necessarily about the hourly rate or would the attorney do it for a flat fee. The issue is what value the attorney provides to you not for just one matter, but for all the matters that you have. Keep in mind you can always find cheaper, but you lose that valued relationship. If the attorney is willing to negotiate the price, the attorney may not be the one that is suited for you. That is far different from offering various alternative fee arrangements with hourly billing, flat fees, project management type billing and the like. You can find cheaper in everything you do in life. It is a question of whether or not there is value in finding that cheaper. Finding the cheapest professional is most likely going to get you the cheapest and, unfortunately, results that may not be able to be undone. The value is discovered in the guidance provided the attorney and the team assigned.
Stephen Fuller is the managing partner of Fuller Sloan LLC and has practiced in business litigation and consulting for 37 years and has over 25 years representation of the founder of one of the largest sit-down casual restaurants in America. For more information, send Mr. Fuller an email.