How to Get the Most out of Your Lawyer

Even if you don’t choose me as your lawyer, I wanted to share a few bits of advice for those unaccustomed to retaining counsel in how to get the most from your lawyer with the least investment in time and money.

Put together an elevator pitch.

This sounds backwards from what the average entrepreneur would think. You are usually being billed by the hour, so the longer it takes you to get out what you seek advice on, the more it’s going to cost you before you even get any advice. Your attorney may ask questions if what you present sparks them, but don’t try to anticipate and answer all your attorney’s questions before they get a chance to ask.

Don’t try to speak legalese.

Yes, there is some extremely specific language that lawyers use. Unless you have spent time studying the law or working with an area of law, you won’t know the depth of the terms any more than you know molecular biology or astrophysics (unless you practice those, of course). Remember that lawyers are people too and if you have trouble communicating with lawyer when you speak plain language, you need to find a different lawyer, not change the way you speak. They are only trying to dazzle you with their big brain.

Make sure you have a good understanding with your lawyer.

Be sure you are clear on what your lawyer tells you and more importantly why they are telling you that. This will not only validate that your lawyer understands your situation, but also streamline the process next time you need to consult a lawyer. The client who just blindly does what a lawyer tells them will eventually find themselves in trouble.

Accept your attorney knows the law.

One thing I had an issue with when switching from technology was that attorneys can’t say anything unless we are sure about it. This becomes an issue for any intelligent person who otherwise develops misunderstandings about the law. It doesn’t matter if it relates to your field. Misinformation spreads faster than correct information, making wrong things sound right. Your attorney has a duty to only offer advice on the law if they are confident they are correct. If you remain convinced that your attorney is incorrect, you need to find another attorney who is not endangering your legal rights or have them explain it to you in a way that makes more sense.

Recognize that not every decision involving the law is a legal decision.

This is one where many lawyers get tripped up. Although likely consequences of a certain course of action constitute legal advice, whether and how to follow that course is left to the client unless it amounts to crime or fraud. As an example, the decision on whether to move forward or settle a claim or action is almost entirely a business decision. Many attorneys will decline to represent you if they feel you are being too reckless in making an uncommon or excessively expensive decision. Who to take on as a client is an attorney’s prerogative, however, as much as a client’s. A client who an attorney sees as reckless with their money may not be able to offer a long term relationship.