Most lawyers provide some type of initial consultation, either over the phone or in person. You should use the consultation to ask the lawyer some basic questions to help you decide whether you should hire that lawyer. Here are six essential questions to help you make an educated decision.
How long have you practiced business law?
You should find out how much experience the lawyer has and also the type. Ask how long the lawyer has practiced business law, not just law in general.
What percentage of your practice is devoted to business law
If the lawyer practices in multiple areas unrelated to business law (e.g., family law, residential real estate, etc.), the lawyer is unlikely to know the many important details that a lawyer focused exclusively in business law would know. Lawyers who are specialized in an area typically charge more but their level of knowledge and service should match the higher price.
What type of business matters do you generally handle? How many matters like mine have you handled in the past year?
If you are hiring a lawyer to assist in purchasing a business, consider hiring someone whose business law experience is not limited to simple incorporations or basic contracts. You should also ask about the size of the transactions the lawyer typically handles, not just the type. Larger transactions involve different considerations and issues than smaller transactions. If the lawyer has handled matters like yours in the distant past but not recently, the lawyer’s knowledge and skill set may be outdated.
Other than your legal training, what special training or knowledge do you have that might help my situation?
It can be very useful to hire a business lawyer who has additional business knowledge, business skills and business experience beyond the law. For example, a lawyer who also owns a business may be able to better relate to your situation and anticipate risks and needs for your business. Likewise, a lawyer with a degree in business and/or accounting may have a better understanding of things like financial statements and other business concepts that could help in your situation.
How and when will I be charged?
Business lawyers generally charge either (a) hourly fees, or (b) a fixed price. Many business lawyers charge a fixed price for simple matters, such as incorporations, but revert to hourly fees for larger or more complex matters. We believe hourly fees reward inefficiency and put the lawyer’s interests against yours, which is why we use fixed prices on all matters, small or large, simple or complex.
If the lawyer charges a fixed price, you should ask:
- DOES THE LAWYER REQUIRE A RETAINER FEE?
- DOES THE FIXED PRICE INCLUDE ALL EXPENSES AND CHARGES, OR WILL THOSE BE ADDED TO THE FIXED PRICE?
- WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMETHING UNANTICIPATED COMES UP DURING THE MATTER?
If you proceed with a lawyer who charges by the hour, you should ask:
- DOES THE LAWYER REQUIRE A RETAINER FEE?
- WHAT IS THE HOURLY RATE OF THE LAWYER AND ANYONE ELSE WHO MIGHT BE INVOLVED WITH THE MATTER? KEEP IN MIND THAT A LAWYER CHARGING $350/HOUR MIGHT TAKE TWICE AS LONG TO DO THE SAME THING AS A LAWYER CHARGING $500/HOUR.
- WHAT IS THE MINIMUM BILLING INCREMENT? FOR EXAMPLE, IF THE MINIMUM BILLING INCREMENT IS 15 MINUTES THAT MEANS YOU WILL BE BILLED 15 MINUTES FOR A 2-MINUTE CALL.
- HOW FREQUENTLY WILL YOU BE BILLED BY THE LAWYER? FOR EXAMPLE, WILL THERE BE MONTHLY BILLS OR ONE LARGE BILL AT THE END?
- WHAT IS THE LAWYER’S ESTIMATE OF THE NUMBER OF HOURS THE MATTER WILL TAKE? REMEMBER IT IS ONLY A GUESS AND THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT THE FINAL BILL WILL MATCH THE ESTIMATE.
- WHAT HAPPENS IF THE MATTER TAKES LONGER THAN ANTICIPATED?
- WHAT OTHER EXPENSES AND CHARGES SHOULD YOU EXPECT ON YOUR BILL?
How will we communicate?
It is important to understand how and when you will communicate with each other. How often will the lawyer provide updates? How quickly will someone respond to your emails and phone calls? Clearly defined communication protocols at the outset can make working together much smoother and more enjoyable.
You should feel comfortable asking these questions and as many others as you need to get a better understanding of the lawyer’s fees, experience, expertise, and any special knowledge. Most importantly, these questions should help you decide whether you like the lawyer and want to work together.
We work with hundreds of businesses and would love for you to be our next client. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-474-4771 to get started with Hudson Law.