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Business Tips: Selecting a Lawyer

(ARA) -- We have all seen it in the movies, an angry man stops at the door, turns and says: "You'll be hearing from my lawyer!" He slams the door. What we don't see, is what he says to himself as he walks down the hall: "I don't have a lawyer. Whom do I call?"

Whether you are personally bringing or defending a lawsuit, or acting on behalf of your company, the selection of a lawyer may be your most important decision. A good lawyer will properly counsel you to successfully handle the case or, if appropriate, settle.

Finding a Lawyer

There are many ways to find a lawyer. The Minnesota Bar Association notes five popular methods:

1. Ask a friend;

2. Ask the opinion of a person you respect; for example, your employer, a doctor, a minister, teacher, social worker or relative;

3. Ask a lawyer you know;

4. Call a lawyer referral service; or

5. Respond to an advertisement.

Obviously, the best person to identify a competent lawyer is someone who has hired him/her in a similar case. Referral services and even advertisements can be useful, however, in complex commercial disputes the best lawyers, as with the best plumbers and doctors, tend to rely on word-of-mouth referrals to get their business. Lawyers you know can also be valuable referral sources because they are aware of the prominent and competent attorneys in their profession.

Size of the Law Firm

Another factor to consider is whether you want to hire a lawyer from a large (50-pus lawyers), medium (20-50 lawyers), or small firm (less than 20 lawyers). Unfortunately, there are no simple answers. Each size firm has strengths and weaknesses.

Large firms have the resources and expertise to handle a wide range of cases For example, they may have an attorney specializing in copyright infringement. However, large firms also tend to be very expensive and a portion of your fees go to pay their substantial overhead.

Conversely, a small firm many not have the resources to handle a complex case, the available manpower to adequately staff your case, or the specialized expertise you need.

A medium size firm, in may cases, presents a happy compromise; it has the size and expertise to handle complex cases, while being small enough to have lower overhead and being appropriately cost conscious.

Questions to Ask Your Potential Lawyer

Regardless of the size of firm you hire, there are a series of important questions you should ask any potential lawyer, notes Steve Yoch, an attorney at Maun & Simon in Minneapolis.

1. Ask the lawyer for referrals;

2. Discuss costs openly;

3. Discuss your prospects of success (be wary of a lawyer who guarantees results);

4. Ask the attorney for his/her credentials (education, years of practice, experience in the area of dispute);

5. Ask about who will work on the case (you do not want a revolving door of attorneys, but you do want, where possible, paralegals and junior attorneys working on the case to minimize costs);

6. Ask how the attorney will keep you updated on the status of the case and its costs;

7. Ask the attorney how long the case will take;

8. Ask the attorney for indications of efficiency, that is how the attorney is cost conscious; and

9. Ask how the attorney will be paid:

a. Flat fee basis (you pay attorney a fixed amount regardless of how long it takes, e.g., $100 to draft a will);

b. Contingent fee (the attorney gets a percentage of your recovery, but the attorney only gets paid if money is recovered); or

c. Hourly (attorney is paid by the hour for work actually done).

Remember, you are hiring the attorney. He or she will work for you. It is important that you be an informed consumer and ask the attorney all your questions relating to how your case will be handled. "A good and reputable attorney will not be offended by answering these questions," states Yoch. "Indeed, it shows that you are a sophisticated consumer of legal services."

Finally, assuming you are not looking for substantive legal advice at your first meeting, your initial consultation should be free.

Perhaps most important, the attorney you choose should be someone you trust and with whom you feel comfortable.

Courtesy of Article Resource Association,

If considering a tax attorney, avoid the sleazeball operators who make big promises. Go with a quality firm such as Merriam and Associates. (This is an unsolicited, uncompensated recommendation).


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