Choosing and Working with a Lawyer: Six Tips

How do you pick a lawyer? How do you know if a lawyer is serving you well? There’s no shortage of choice in the marketplace. I thought I’d share with you some tips I have for choosing a lawyer and maintaining a healthy, rewarding business relationship. Whether you’re incorporating a business, buying a home, or engaging in some unfortunate litigation, keep these tips in mind.

1: Meet Your Lawyer

When choosing a lawyer, you can read as many online reviews or talk to as many friends as you’d like, but, as with most relationships, you’ll have the most success with a lawyer with whom you personally connect. You won’t know whether a lawyer is right for you until you meet them. If, after meeting your potential lawyer, you decide they’re not right for you, keep looking. There are a lot of options out there and not every lawyer is suited to every client (and vice versa). 

2: Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! That’s what we’re here for. I’ve lost count of the number of times when I’ve been in meetings and clients have apologized for asking a question. Remember: you hire a lawyer to give you legal advice and help you work through whatever legal issue or process you’ve got on the go. Your lawyer should be happy to answer any questions you might have.

3: Know Your Lawyer’s Role 

Your lawyer’s role is not to tell you what to do. Your lawyer acts on your instructions. We can recommend a certain course of action and explain the pros and cons of whatever decision you need to make – that’s our job – but, at the end of the day, those decisions are still yours. We advise you of the legal consequences and risk. You choose how to act.

4: Demand Transparency

Be wary of any lawyer who refuses to talk about legal fees. It’s your money – demand transparency. Your lawyer should be able to give you an estimate of your legal costs, even if just a general ballpark figure, before being hired. For some areas of law, such as real estate and estate planning, costs are predictable. Areas such as civil litigation and family law are harder to gauge, and your lawyer will work mostly on an hourly-rate basis. But you should still be able to get an idea of how much money you’re looking at spending on a case-by-case basis.

5: Don’t be Put Off by Retainers

Speaking of fees: don’t be put off if a lawyer asks you for a retainer in advance. The money still belongs to you – your lawyer is just holding it in their trust account as security for payment and will return any unused funds. Not all areas of law require retainers – they’re usually reserved for costly and/or time-consuming matters such as complex business transactions or litigation.

6: Keep Tabs on Communication

Poor communication is the top complaint – by far – about lawyers. A lawyer can sit in their office and correspond with everyone by snail-mail letter. Every other industry demands fast communication: the legal world should be no different. If your lawyer isn’t returning your phone calls or your emails in a timely fashion, have a discussion about it. Don’t stand for poor communication.

Conclusion

All of these tips have a common theme: know who you’re working with and how they work. Gone are the days when a law office was a “black box” with mysterious inner workings. These days, you should expect – and demand – transparency, clarity, and communication from your lawyer, no matter what your legal issue is.

If you have any questions, or you’re interested in our services, give us a call at 604-465-9993.

Or, if you’d like, email me, Jamie Nay, directly at jnay@beckerlawyers.ca and I’d be happy to talk to you.