Lawsuit Battles Hinge on Power Plays
Labour Laws
Don't sign that!
A good lawyer understands the business
 A good lawyer understands the business
 Throughout the life of a business, an owner will likely need a lawyer many times. Law is complicated - the legal system has been built one case at a time.
 Legislation is often out of date and generally not very friendly to owner-managers. The system tends to favour government and big corporations with a lot of time and financial resources at their disposal.
 An entrepreneur usually needs a lawyer at the birth of a business to incorporate the company, set up the partnership, or register the sole proprietorship. But beyond those early days, a highly competent legal adviser is crucial to the continuing operation of the firm.
  How do you find that great lawyer? Here are some guidelines.
  Find someone who understand you. Most people who become lawyers are knowledgeable about the law, but they know little about running a business. Great lawyers start client relationships by understanding customers' business strategies.
 They get to know you as an individual and they understand your hopes, desires and goals. Then they look at the legal issues and determine how to get you what you want. They can't be the right lawyers without this knowledge.
 One entrepreneur signed a contract with a significant penalty clause for failure to perform. He went to a lawyer who was an expert in this field to help eliminate the penalty. The lawyer gave him the technical answers but did not recognize the business and the personal issues that were critically important.
 The entrepreneur found a more compatible lawyer who delivered a solution that matched his needs.
  Find someone who can communicate effectively. Lawyers should be great communicators who fully understand your goals and make sure they are on target.
 On any matter, they should provide you with a detailed analysis in writing. They should start with a summary of their understanding of the business issues, then move on to the technical matters. Most lawyers provide written summaries of meetings and the narrow legal issues, but very few will take the time to provide a complete picture of the business implications.
 This is a relationship built on trust. You trust that your lawyer will act in your overall best interests, while the lawyer trusts that you are providing complete information. You want someone who communicates the good, the bad and the ugly.
 Consider the case of one owner-manager, who got an opinion on a problem from her law firm, which basically dealt with the specific legal issue. When she asked another firm for its opinion, she received a much more comprehensive analysis that included the strengths and weaknesses of her position, the likely outcome, and suggested strategies to eliminate the problem. She quickly switched to the practice that cared enough to communicate effectively.
 How does the lawyer run his business? When you're forging a relationship with a lawyer, look at how he runs his own operations. Does he invoice every month on a timely basis? Some lawyers like to accumulate time for months before sending a big bill. Does he return your calls promptly? Legal advisers that do not phone back give the appearance that you are working for them.
  Look at the quality of the people supporting your lawyer. If you do not see competent employees, chances are this person will not provide the service you are paying for. Does your new lawyer bill for value added or for time? Most legal advisers charge clients based on the hours they put into a file. But good ones look at the value added and the outcome and adjust their bills accordingly.
 Word of mouth is always an option. Ask other successful entrepreneurs for the names of their legal advisers. After questioning a number of astute people, you will quickly put together a list of who to interview. You want a lawyer who can act as a team leader and who can bring in other legal experts when required. And the person should work well with other professional advisers.
 Just as with new employees, you will select your lawyer based on the compatibility between the two of you. No matter how talented the person appears to be, if this chemistry isn't right, don't hire him.
 Published June 8, 1998
Disclaimer: This website contains the opinions and ideas of its authors and is designed to provide useful advice in regard to the subject matter covered. The author and publisher are not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services in this website. This website is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. The authors and publisher expressly disclaim any responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this website.