Before you Hire an Attorney You Need To Ask Yourself These 4 Questions:
- Is this person really a frustrated businessperson disguised as a lawyer? Some lawyers get tired of being on the outside looking in when it comes to business dealings. Such a lawyer may attempt to second-guess your business judgment. Be wary of a lawyer who takes too keen an interest in the nonlegal aspects of your work.
- Does this person communicate well? J. P. Morgan once said, “I do not pay my lawyers to tell me what I cannot do, but to tell me how to do what I want to do.” The right lawyer for your business will not respond to your questions with a simple “That’s OK” or “No, you can’t do that,” but will outline all your available options and tell you what other businesses in your situation normally do.
- Are the offices conveniently located? You will need to visit your attorney frequently, especially in your first few years in business. You should not have to waste a day traveling to and from the nearest city each time you need legal advice. When in doubt, choose a lawyer close to home.
- Do I like this person? Don’t forget to follow your instincts and feelings. You should be able to communicate openly and freely with your attorney at all times. If you feel you cannot trust a particular lawyer or you believe the two of you have different perspectives, keep looking. Just remember good looks and a dynamic personality are not as important in a lawyer as accuracy, thoroughness, intelligence, the willingness to work hard for you and attention to detail.
A great place to start is with the American Bar Association. The ABA’s website has a wealth of information for consumers and professionals alike who have legal questions. In the “Hire a Lawyer” section, you’ll find information on public service lawyer referral programs, wherein you are interviewed to have your needs diagnosed and then provided with a referral to a lawyer or to helpful community resources.
There are also commercial lawyer referral services on the web. Go to FindLaw, for instance, and you have instant access to thousands of lawyers. You can search by city and state, and several results come up within the area you specify, with details of each firm’s background, areas of practice, published works, attorneys on staff and so on. There are other similar services listed on the ABA site.
For a fee, you can also request a search of the ABA’s National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank to see if any disciplinary action has ever been taken against the lawyers you are interested in.