5 Things to Know Before Hiring a Personal or Business Lawyer
Before hiring a personal or business
lawyer to guide you, your family or your business, ask these 5 questions to
ensure that you don’t end up paying a whole lot of money for services that are not
what you need, expect or want. Hiring an
attorney does not have to be a fearful experience. Instead, it can be the most empowered
decision you ever make for yourself.
How do you bill for your services?
no need to be afraid to talk with your lawyer about how he/she bills for the
work they will do on your behalf. In
fact, when you first call a lawyer’s office, this is one of the very first
questions you should ask. No one wants
you call the attorney’s office, they will not give you any information about
how they charge for their services or any expectation of what things will cost,
beware you could be in for some big surprises about what things cost down the
Look for a
lawyer who bills all of their services on a flat-fee, project basis and never
on an hourly basis, unless required to by the Court for limited purposes. In every event, be sure the lawyer you choose
promises to never send you an unexpected bill in the mail for quick phone calls
How are you able to be responsive to my needs on an ongoing basis?
One of the
biggest complaints people have about working with a lawyer is that lawyers are
notorious for not being responsive. In
fact, I’ve heard of situations in which clients have gone weeks without getting
a call back from their lawyer.
generally happens when a lawyer does not have enough administrative support in his
or her office. Far too many lawyers
believe they can take care of everything in and around their office themselves,
from paperwork to client meetings to calendaring to returning phone calls to
connecting with their clients other advisors, the list goes on and on. Truth is, a lawyer who is a true solo
practitioner without administrative support or in a firm without adequate
support will become overwhelmed and non-responsive to your needs.
and should ask your lawyer how he or she will respond to your ongoing needs, how
quickly calls are returned in the office, if there is someone on hand to answer
quick questions and if you should expect to get right through to your lawyer
when you call the office.
way to test this is to call your prospective lawyer’s office and ask for him or
her. If you get put right through or
even worse sent to a voicemail, think twice about hiring this lawyer because it
means they do not have effective systems in place for managing and responding
to calls or answering your quick questions. Instead, what you want is for the person answering the phone or another
team member to offer to help you and if he or she cannot then to schedule a
call for you to talk with your lawyer at a future date and time when he or she
will be ready to focus on your matter.
lawyer cannot be effective and efficient if he or she is taking every call that
comes through to him or her – all calls should be pre-scheduled when you are
both ready and your lawyer can focus on your specific needs.
How will you proactively communicate with me on an ongoing basis?
most lawyers do a horrible job of proactively communicating with their clients
on an ongoing basis. The general
thinking in the legal industry is that legal work is transactional in nature and
clients will call when something changes. But, this is faulty thinking and in my opinion just pure laziness on the
part of lawyers.
to look for a lawyer who will proactively communicate with you at least quarterly by mail via an
informative, easy to read newsletter and monthly by email. I prefer to hear from the professionals I
work with monthly by mail and weekly by email, but progress can only happen so
If you are
considering hiring a lawyer who does not proactively communicate with his or
her clients, think again. This lawyer
might be stuck in an old, outdated mindset that won’t serve your needs in the
best possible way.
4. Can I call about any
legal problem I have or just about matters within your specialty?
complex world, lawyers must have specialized training in one or more specific
practice areas, such as divorce, bankruptcy, wills & trusts, estates,
personal injury, business, criminal matters or employment. You definitely do NOT want to be working with
a lawyer who professes to be an expert in whatever walks through the door. However, you do want your personal lawyer
and/or business lawyer to have a broad enough expertise that you can consult
with your lawyer on all sorts of legal or financial issues that come up in your
life and he or she will be able to guide you right.
you probably don’t want the lawyer who designed your estate plan to also handle
your personal injury claim, your dispute with your landlord and advise you on
your divorce, but you do want him or her to be there to hear your story, find
you the exact right lawyer and be available as a consultant to you. That way,
you can call you personal lawyer before signing legal documents (even loan
documents), any time you have a legal or financial issue, or whenever anything
that could affect your family or business adversely comes up and know you’ll
get great guidance.
Look for a
lawyer who has an ongoing service program or membership program in place so
that you can pay a low monthly fee and be able to call with all of your legal
and financial questions without being charged hourly for the consultation. And be sure that when you call, you’ll get to
schedule time to talk with your own personal lawyer who you know and trust and
not get passed off to one of any number of lawyers who happen to work in the
office and may not know who you are or what’s important to you.
5. What happens if you
die or retire?
This is a
critically important question to ask any service professional when beginning a
relationship and a question that is far too often overlooked. Sure, it may feel uncomfortable to ask, but a
truly excellent, client-centered service provider will have in place a plan to
ensure their clients are taken care of no matter what happens to the lawyer in
you want to look for here are that your lawyer has a clear plan in place for
someone warm and caring to take over your matter without providing any
interruption of service to you. If your lawyer prepared a Will, Trust and other
estate planning documents for you, or you are in the middle of a divorce or
lawsuit, you want to ensure your lawyer has a plan in place so you won’t need
to start everything over from scratch. And,
if you are on a membership program with your lawyer, you’ll want to make sure
he or she has a relationship with a lawyer or network of lawyers who can
continue to service you under that program.
When you ask these 5 questions before hiring a lawyer for any type of legal matter, you will know you are engaging a trusted advisor who will help you to make the very best decisions for you, your family and your busines