When Should I Call a Lawyer?It seems that attorneys are more feared than death, taxes, or public speaking. However, good attorneys can be found and attorneys’ fees are much lower when culinary professionals consult with them before things go completely wrong.
- Initially, an attorney can review your purchase orders, customer contracts, employee contracts, subcontractor agreements, and invoices and will advise you to include clauses such as confidentiality, attorneys’ fees, arbitration, and interest charges. These clauses will save you time and money if things go wrong or you have collection problems.
- An attorney can help you choose which business organization is best for you. There are important differences between sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations. Some can shield you from personal liability and some can provide significant tax reduction benefits.
- Experienced attorneys have helped dozens, if not hundreds, of small business start-ups. They can be business advisors as well as legal counsel, suggesting business and marketing strategies and pointing out how to avoid pitfalls that other businesses have suffered.
- An attorney must be consulted whenever you take on a partner or co-owner. Advice and counsel are critical in structuring co-ownership agreements which correctly define ownership expectations; avoid arguments over responsibilities and compensation; and reduce the damage caused by a co-owner’s retirement or severance from the business.
- And, need I write this? A “Nasty-Gram” from an attorney -- early in a dispute -- tells a client, supplier, employee, or governmental official that you are taking a dispute seriously and that you will pursue all of your legal rights.
Attorneys need clients and business clients with ongoing legal needs are the most valuable clients of all. Therefore, you can expect certain things when you call an attorney for an initial consultation or hire an attorney for your legal matter:
- A no-cost, or low-cost, initial 30 or 60 minute consultation. Both the attorney and the client should want a good “fit” before the attorney is hired.
- A written retainer agreement which clearly states the scope of the representation and the fees to be charged.
- Reasonable access. Abraham Lincoln said that an attorney’s time and knowledge are their stock in trade. Therefore, expect to be charged when you have asked for either. However, be smart about it. Instead of playing “telephone tag” (which takes a lot of time that an attorney must capture by charging you an additional time when you speak with each other), call your attorney’s assistant and set a 15 minute telephone appointment if you have a question.
Do not be afraid to speak with an attorney about billing practices or alternate billing structures. At our firm, we provide a wide range of services on a “flat-fee” basis. The client knows the charge ahead of time and has no worries about paying for never-ending fee bills. We also do not charge for e-mail time for ordinary questions (the type of general information questions that can be answered quickly and will not create liability for us). However, if the answer involves research, reviewing documents, or communications with non-clients, we will obtain your approval and then charge you for the response time.
The most important thing to remember is that the relationship between you and your attorney is that it is a relationship. However, with clear, regular communication, you can expect to have a solid working relationship that is very cost-effective.
Acuña ❖ Regli provides expert services within the four corners of family wealth transfers: Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Administration; Conservatorship and Special Needs Planning; and, Inheritance Litigation. However, we are available to counsel our clients and to refer them to competent, qualified attorneys who can help if they need further, specialized help. ContactUs@AcunaRegli.com or call (925) 906-1880.