Eleven Questions to Ask BEFORE Hiring a Business Attorney
The Attorney Interview Outline
- How many trials have you won?
Even if you expect to resolve your business problem without going to trial, a trial attorney will provide better value to you.
- What course of action would you recommend for my business problem?
With ALL of the pertinent information, any top quality Business Litigation Trial attorney should be willing and able to outline the best course of action. This course of action may change as the case progresses, but if you and the attorney can't get on the same page on Day 1, keep looking.
- How will decisions be made regarding resolving this matter? Attorney, client or jointly?
Generally, you are hiring an attorney to use his or her legal experience and expertise to represent your best interests and that includes making the decisions. That does not preclude the attorney from welcoming your concerns and utilizing any pertinent technical expertise you possess. Just remember, although you and your attorney are the same team, your attorney is leading the charge.
- What are my responsibilities and tasks likely to be?
Since this varies so drastically with each case, it is imperative that you understand early in the process what you will be asked to do and/or provide. This will make you a better client which always yields better value to you for the legal fees paid.
- What is my case worth in both trial and non trial scenarios?
An experienced business litigation trial attorney will know. If you are interviewing an attorney who is uncomfortable with or avoids answering this question, it's the wrong attorney. Additionally, your attorney must be able to give you a risk assessment and recommend the correct course of action.
- What are the strengths & weaknesses of my case?
Every case has them and you should never hire any attorney who cannot or will not answer this question. A successful case strategy demands answers to this question before any work on your case begins.
- Who will be handling my case and returning my calls & emails?
Simply stated, the more accessible and communicative your attorney is, the more value you will receive throughout representation. BEWARE of hiring a big firm with one attorney "responsible" but three or four associates and/or paralegals actually sharing the workload on your case. Overstaffing is never in your best interest.
- How long will it take to resolve this matter?
While this is very dependent on how the opposing party proceeds/responds every step of the way, a good trial attorney can give you the most likely time line. Always remember the value of time (we do!). Your attorney must understand the Value of Time has two components: the cost of legal fees and the cost created by the time spent by you and possibly others in your organization in litigation and not attending to business or personal life. Timely resolution is essential.
- What are the risks of waiting, instead of taking action now?
The point of asking this question is to insure that you and your attorney have complementary (or identical) philosophies related to the Value of Time, the importance of prompt, right action and the often unacceptable risks of delay.
- Would you explain your fee structures (hourly, contingent, etc.) and how each of them works?
The importance of the client clearly understanding the fee structure cannot be overemphasized! Hourly fees are typically charged and billed on a monthly basis, as the hours are worked. There is also usually a retainer paid when the hourly agreement with your attorney is signed. At SO&L, we also have a contingent fee program for which you may qualify. You may read more about contingent fees here.
- As a prospective client with a business legal problem, what other questions should I be asking you?
In most instances, the prior ten questions will provide what you need to choose the best attorney for you and your legal problem. And asking this question just might provide additional insight (positive or negative) into what the future might be like working with this attorney.