The reasons for hiring a lawyer to advise you the legal aspects of your business are apparent. A skilful lawyer will provide your company with all vital assistance your business may need from copyright and trademark advice to formal incorporation of your business. Your lawyer can also advise you of possible lawsuits and liabilities your company is facing in your business. Don’t wait until being sued and then get a lawyer. Matters will be very complicated by then and it can be very costly after being sued.
You need to remember that it is easy to get into court, but, very difficult to get out of court once you are entangled with legal problems affecting your business. You may need to know on how to hire or retain a lawyer on monthly or annual basis to keep your company out of trouble. It is not expensive to retain a lawyer that way, but, it will be a very expensive affair once you are in court.
Whether your company is big or small, it doesn’t matter, but, the larger you company is, the more problems your company will face. You may need lawyers to advise you on your company’s lawsuits, to negotiate your company’s lease of office or retail space, to advise your company on terminating a disruptive employee, and to oversee your corporate annual meeting.
A skilful lawyer or a reputed law firm to assist your company is what you needed to help your company run its business smoothly. Mind you, a nasty letter from a “powerhouse” law firm or a reputed lawyer can be very intimidating and can wreck your life!
Who The Lawyer That You Need
Perhaps, the lawyer that could be suitable to your business is those who have some sound skill of criminal, employment and contract laws. You may not be aware that leases of commercial space such as offices and retail stores are highly complicated matters. Tenancy agreements are normally drafted to benefit the landlord and it is here that your lawyer will assist you to consider the pros and cons of committing yourself to the agreement. Your lawyer may wish to negotiate with the landlord clauses that are to benefit you too before you wish to pen down the agreement.
No lawyer can possibly know everything about every area of law but, a multi skill lawyer should be the one that you should go for. You shouldn’t have to go scrounging for a new lawyer each time a different type of legal problem comes up. If your business has specialized legal needs (a graphic designer, for example, may need someone who is familiar with copyright laws), your lawyer should either be familiar with that special area or have a working relationship with someone who is. It is advisable that the lawyer you look for should be somebody who is a legal, “internist” that is someone who can diagnose your problem, perform any “minor surgery” that may be needed, and refer you to local specialists for “major surgery” if needed.
Never Shy Away From Interviewing Your Lawyer
Before you engage your lawyer, you may need to interview him and find out his expertise and area of practice. You may need to know the lawyer’s network. That is, whether he is well-connected with other business people in your same or different industry. You may also wish to know how connected the lawyer is with other lawyers in town and so forth.
You may ask the lawyer, “Do you have other clients in my industry?
The lawyer you are looking for should be someone familiar with your industry and its legal environment. Ask around or you may list down the lawyers you may wish to interview and scan them by referring through legal journals and professional literatures. However, to employ a lawyer who represents one or more of your competitors is not advisable. While the legal code of ethics requires that your lawyer keep everything you tell him strictly confidential, you may not risk an accidental leak of sensitive information to a competitor.
At the same time, ask the lawyer whether the lawyer is willing to teach or educate you and our staff about the legal environment of your business. The lawyer should be able on the spot to tell you and your staff what the law says and explain how the law would affect the way your company do business. This will help you to spot problems well in advance. The right lawyer will distribute such freebies as newsletters or memoranda that describe recent developments in the law affecting your business.
You may need to ask the lawyer his billing system and charges of a particular work. Due to locations and area of practice, the lawyer’s billing system and particular work normally varies from one lawyer to another. Be sure to ask if the flat fee includes disbursements (the lawyer’s out-of-pocket expenses, such as filing fees and overnight courier charges), and when the flat fee is expected to be paid. Some fees may be non-refundable.
In practice, lawyers normally require payment of a flat fee upfront, so that they can cover their out-of-pocket expenses. You should always ask to “hold back” certain percentage of the flat fee, in the event the lawyer doesn’t do the job well.
Most lawyers will be reluctant to quote flat fees if the matter involves litigation or negotiations with third parties. The reason for this is bluntly stated by a lawyer who said: “Even though it’s a transaction I’ve done dozens of times, if the other side’s lawyer turns out to be a blithering idiot who wants to fight over every comma and semicolon in the contracts, then I can’t control the amount of time I will be putting into the matter. In the end I will end up losing money if I quote a flat fee.”
In such situations, you may ask for a written estimate of the amount of time involved in doing the work. You may need the lawyer to give you advance notice if circumstances occur that will cause the lawyer to exceed his estimate time and expenses.
If a lawyer asks you for a retainer or deposit against future fees, make sure the money will be used and not be held indefinitely in escrow. You have to get the lawyer to commit himself to return any unused portion of the retainer if the deal fails to close for any reason.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hiring a Lawyer
It is advisable to hire a lawyer not to tell you what you cannot do, but, a lawyer who can tell you how to do and what to do when facing a legal problem.
Another thing you need to ask yourself is whether the lawyer’s office is conveniently located? This is because you will need to visit your lawyer frequently. You may also wish that the lawyer is easily available in his office each time you need legal advice. When in doubt, choose a lawyer close to home or office.
In all business dealings, do not hire a lawyer you could not communicate with. The lawyer is supposed to help you but help will not come if you have problems communicating with him. He must be a person who likes you and you must also be a person who likes him too. If you feel you cannot trust a particular lawyer or you believe the two of you have different perspectives, move on and keep looking. Just remember that good looks and a dynamic personality are not as important. What you should look for in a lawyer is accuracy, thoroughness, intelligence, the willingness to work hard for you and with attention to details. Chose a lawyer that works for a living not a lawyer that wears branded watches and Armani.
For many entrepreneurs, the idea of consulting a lawyer conjures up frightening visions of skyrocketing legal bills. Lawyers are expensive, but, the good news is there are more ways than ever to keep a lid on costs by learning about the various ways lawyers bill their work:
Hourly or per diem rate – Lawyers may bill by the hour and if travel is involved, they may bill by the day.
Flat fee – Lawyers may also suggest a flat fee for certain routine matters, such as reviewing a contract, closing a loan, issuing simple letters of demands and helping you draft letters to business associates and clients.
Monthly retainer – This is more workable and more suitable to you, if you anticipate a lot of routine questions. This may entitles you to all the routine legal advice you need.
Contingent fee – This is not allowed in this jurisdiction but at times clients may prefer to give lawyers a certain percentage of the proceeds if the lawyer wins the case. Whatever it is, lawyers would like to be paid a certain amount of upfront fees and also would bill clients out-of-pocket expenses.
Value billing – Some law firms bill at a higher rate on business matters if their lawyers obtain a favourable result, such as negotiating a contract that saves the client money and costs. Try to avoid lawyers who use this method, which is also sometimes called “partial contingency.”
If you think one method will work better for you than another, don’t hesitate to bring it up with the lawyer; many will offer flexible arrangements to meet your needs. When you hire a lawyer, draw up an agreement (called an “Engagement Letter” or “Warrant to Act”) detailing the billing method. If more than one lawyer works on your file, make sure the fees are specified in the Engagement Letter or in the Warrant To Act. This agreement should also specify what expenses you are expected to reimburse. Lawyers may also wish to be reimbursed for meals, secretarial overtime, postage and photocopies, which many people consider the costs of doing business. If an unexpected charge comes up, you may wish your attorney call you for authorization unless such an authority been specified and given in the Engagement Letter or Warrant to Act.
No matter what type of billing method your lawyer uses, there are some steps you can take to control legal costs:
Have the lawyer estimate the cost of each matter in writing, so that you can decide whether the matter is worth pursuing. If the bill exceeds the estimates, you may wish to ask your lawyer about this. You may need to commit your lawyer to guarantee in writing the maximum cost of a particular service. This helps you budget and gives you more certainty than just getting an estimate.
Request monthly, itemized bills – Do not get your lawyers to wait until a bill gets large before sending an invoice. Ask for monthly invoices so that it would be easier for you to settle your bills. You may also wish to negotiate prompt-payment discounts. Request that your bill be discounted if you pay within 30 days of your invoice date. A 5-percent discount on legal fees can save much money to your yearly bottom line.
You may wish to know that the Advocates’ Remuneration Rules 1988 carry an interest of 14% on the unpaid sum from the expiration of one month from the date of the bill.