Getting the best from your company lawyer

Every year one in three businesses seek advice or help from a solicitor. Whatever your reason, it helps to know what to expect and what your solicitor will need to know about your problem. West Midlands based solicitors, Morton Fisher, have built their practice on strong commercial relationships with their business clients, and provide in this article their views on getting the best from commercial lawyers.

Firstly, you must realise that it is vital that you and your lawyer need to have an open and equal relationship. Without this you may feel that you cannot ask the right questions, which in turn means, you won’t get the right answers!

Secondly, watch your costs. Lawyers have a sometimes fair and sometimes very unfair image relating to fees, yet there are many ways in which you can both control them. Request details of who and what status of lawyer will be working on your file, i.e. who will supervise and be your contact together with information as to who will actually carryout the various levels of work on your file.

The point being that you will not always require a senior lawyer to take every step, so there may be no need to incur high charge out rates on all the work undertaken, you just want to make sure that your file is supervised. A good example of this is a litigious matter. When it comes to composing lists of documents to disclose to the other side, these can usually be prepared by a junior member of staff rather than a partner.

So check out the charge out rates and question the need for levels of expertise at different stages of your case or project. Continuing on the subject of fees, if you can offer a regular amount of work, try and negotiate a deal.

Solicitors are a service provider who have to respond to competitive pressures like any other business, particularly in areas such as commercial property transactions. Certainly for company commercial matters, you can sometimes negotiate a fixed fee so remember, if you don't ask you don't get! In today’s market some firms will also allow you to pay on a monthly basis, which allows for better cashflow for all concerned. In addition check your insurance policies as many offer free legal advice, which, if followed, can lead to your legal expenses being covered; a fact that most companies do not realise.

Fees aside, you should question what the lawyers can do for you. Are they, for example, asking you the right questions and showing an interest in your firm and the problems you have.

Do they demonstrate a sound commercial sense as well; not every good solution to a problem is a legal one. Whilst we all need to make a living, the most successful commercial lawyers are ones who deal with your requests as fast and cost effectively as possible. So ascertain, if possible, what their negotiation skills are like and find a lawyer who sees the positives in mediation, as this can save money in the long run.

Credibility should be a key factor in any business owner’s decision making process today. We all have less time to research suppliers and rely more and more on recommendations. So, ask for details of previous matters your lawyers have acted on, and details of the type of client they usually act for. If appropriate you may want to ask for references or testimonials from other businesses who have used their services in the past.

A good lawyer/client relationship is all about working relationships. From the start let your lawyer know what you want from your work together including the type of service you require. If you want to be written to every other day say so, but remember the costs consequences. If you feel that you only want to hear from your lawyer when they have something to say, say so, then all parties know where they stand.

One of the main complaints about the legal profession is a client saying that they were not kept informed. Most importantly see your lawyer as part of your company, they are on your side so let them know as soon as possible if you anticipate you may have a problem, as it can save time and money in the long run.

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Getting the best from your company lawyer
Every year one in three businesses seek advice or help from a solicitor. Whatever your reason, it helps to know what to expect and ....