September 25, 2018
When does your lawyer want to be paid?
Since 2007 business owners have asked McCabe Marketing for advice about hiring professionals from a lawyer, accountant, financial adviser, human resources consultant, to a business coach and more. All guest blogs are written to be educational; not paid advertisements.
By Lynne Golding, Partner, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
You may think that it is unusual to ask a lawyer what tips she would provide to a small to medium size business about to hire a lawyer. What does she know about hiring a lawyer? Well, even lawyers have to hire lawyers. Based on my own experiences in doing so and on my experiences in serving clients, here are five tips for hiring a lawyer.
1. Understand that having a lawyer is a cost of doing business.
It is true that there are many legal activities that business people can undertake themselves these days. You can find statues, regulations and cases online; you can complete and file your own incorporation documents; you can download simple template contracts.
Costly mistakes can be made if you do not obtain legal advice before entering arrangements that could subject you to material liabilities. Litigation lawyers love business clients who don’t call a lawyer before entering into such arrangements! Sometimes you end up paying more to fix a problem than you would have paid had you seen a lawyer before you entered into the arrangement.
2. Hire a lawyer that is qualified to provide you with the advice you need.
All licensed lawyers in Ontario meet the minimum qualifications required to practise the profession but you will want someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in providing the advice you require. If you expect you will require a variety of types of legal advice (e.g. employment, tax, corporate and litigation) consider hiring a single lawyer who can then obtain for you the expertise you need in other areas, as the need arises.
How will you know if the person is knowledgeable in a particular area?
- Check his or her website. Does it refer to the type of legal services you require?
- Has he or she written articles or spoken at conferences about the subject?
- Has the person been recommended to you by someone you trust?
- Does the person purport to have experience in your particular industry? While some business people do not want their lawyers to work with others in their industry, most business people find it helpful to work with a lawyer who not only understands the law in their area but also the sector in which they work.
3. Enter into a written engagement letter with your lawyer.
It will set out the terms of the arrangement including how often you will be billed; what the hourly billing rates will be; and when you are expected to pay.
4. Ask for an estimate or even a fee quote before your lawyer begins to work on a matter for you.
You do not want to be surprised by a large bill at the end of the mandate and your lawyer does not want to be surprised to hear that you can’t pay it.
5. Finally, and most importantly, develop a relationship with a lawyer you like, are comfortable with and trust.
You want a lawyer you can call for big transactions and small questions; one who promptly gets back to you no matter the size of the potential billings; one who will pick up the phone when you call. I know it’s old fashioned, but I still pick up my phone to speak to clients.
The McCabe Marketing team thanks Lynne Golding for writing this guest blog; connect with her on LinkedIn.
NOTE: the Thought Leaders series of blogs are educational and not paid advertisements.
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