19 Jul Tips for Working Efficiently With Your Lawyer
In both personal and business settings, it is often necessary to consult with a lawyer. The proliferation of laws and regulations at all levels of government increasing impacts many personal and business activities, periodically requiring legal, tax, and other professional advice.
It is expensive to consult with lawyers and other professionals. While there may be some services lawyers provide on a fixed-fee basis or another alternative to traditional hourly rate billing, in most situations lawyers’ fees are a function of the time spent working on the matter. When the need for legal counsel arises, there are a few things to keep in mind to help reduce your cost while exchanging the information necessary for efficient and effective legal services.
- Minimize “non-legal” time. Keep in mind that you are paying for your lawyer’s time. As tempting as it may be to simply deliver a box full of documents to your lawyer’s office, paying a lawyer to organize documents is expensive. While gathering and organizing information is a necessary part of obtaining and providing legal advice, the time you invest to organize and provide copies of all material documents, together with fact and background summaries of other relevant information, will reduce costs (in advance of any initial meeting if possible).
- Share complete information – both the good and the bad. Your lawyer cannot provide competent legal advice without a thorough understanding of context. Lawyers are prohibited by the rules of professional responsibility from disclosing information relating to the lawyer’s representation, and such rules exist to encourage the free and complete exchange of information between the lawyer and his or her client. Sharing incomplete facts can lead to inaccurate legal advice. For this reason, provide your lawyer with all information and let him or her evaluate its relevancy and value.
- Call before acting. Beyond avoiding waiting until a matter becomes urgent, keep in mind it is much more effective and efficient to involve your lawyer early on any subject that may require some level of legal perspective. If action is initiated and something goes awry during a transaction, after a contract is signed, or after an employee is terminated, it is often less effective and more expensive to address the issue. Consulting with counsel in advance of action may save you time and money and increase the possibility of a satisfactory solution.
- Meet periodically. For businesses, it is beneficial to keep your lawyer informed about ongoing business activities. Most business lawyers are happy to meet “off-the-clock” with existing and prospective clients for lunch or in some other manner to maintain a relationship with business owners, keep abreast of their business activities, and provide an update on recent legal developments that may impact the business. While such meetings may identify an issue requiring follow up from your legal counsel, you may have a pending issue you can discuss and resolve on the spot.
- Have an agenda and discuss fees. Similar to the first tip about minimizing the time spent by your lawyer on “non-legal” matters, providing your lawyer with an agenda in advance of a meeting can make the meeting more productive. Also, while discussions regarding legal fees are more common than they used to be, you should not hesitate to discuss fees and any likely out-of-pocket costs with your lawyer in advance. Such discussions can help focus time on priority matters and identify other matters for action at a later date.
Despite what may be a common misperception, lawyers recognize that legal services are costly, and your lawyer can help you manage the time required for any legal services you may need. The more you know about the legal issues impacting your business and the more informed your lawyer is about your business, the more effective and efficient your professional relationship with counsel will be.