Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Insider's Guide on Hiring a Business Attorney

by John L. Watkins

In numerous posts on this blog, we have stressed how serious legal issues can usually be avoided or their severity substantially lessened by involving an experienced business attorney early in the process. For instance, obtaining professional assistance in drafting a contract on the front end is almost invariably less expensive (and more effective) than litigating over a "home made" contract (or no written contract) on the back end. I have yet to have one lawyer disagree with this fundamental precept.

Nevertheless, my experience continues to suggest that business people still try to go it alone, pull a form off the Internet, or re-use a contract prepared for an earlier (and often quite different) transaction, all in a misguided effort to save money. Late last year, it dawned on me that many business people may know that they need a good business attorney, but may not have the foggiest idea of how to find one. Perhaps they get a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance at a cocktail party. Perhaps they meet a lawyer at an event. These methods, however, are not the most reliable for finding and evaluating a professional who should become a trusted member of a business's inner circle.

Having recognized the issue, I researched whether there was any publication that would offer a step-by-step method for business owners and executives to find, evaluate, interview and engage a business attorney. I found nothing that really fit the bill.

This prompted me to write An Insider's Guide on Hiring a Business Attorney (and How to Make the Relationship Work). The Guide was just published. The Guide is concise (just over 100 pages in total), and is not written in legalese. It explains how to go about finding and evaluating business attorneys. The book does not pull punches, as it is designed to help readers find the best business attorneys in their community.

You might be interested in why a lawyer would write a book about hiring other lawyers, or why a lawyer would be qualified to write such a book. The answer is pretty simple: In my practice, I have often had to engage lawyers in other states and internationally for clients. For example, a client may wish me to handle a litigation matter outside of Georgia in a jurisdiction in which I am not licensed. In most other jurisdictions, an out-of-state lawyer can handle specific litigation matters upon the permission of the court. (This is called being admitted pro hac vice). In order to do this, it is always a requirement to engage local counsel.

Similarly, if a business transaction involves another jurisdiction's law (perhaps because the opposing party insists), then it is often necessary to engage counsel from the applicable state (or country) to review particular legal issues. Accordingly, I have had considerable experience in finding, evaluating, and engaging counsel from other jurisdictions.

The Insider's Guide provides the benefit of my experience in finding and evaluating attorneys. The book covers tools that are available for this purpose. The book also explains how to interview an attorney for a possible engagement and key questions that should be asked. Having worked in both the big firm and small firm environments, I discuss differences between large and small firms (and please do not think that it is entirely pro-small firm just because that is the environment in which I currently practice). The book also discusses legal fees and alternative fee arrangements. Finally, the book provides tips for working effectively with a business lawyer (one hint: never lie to your attorney).

The book is $19.99. Those interesting in purchasing should visit the book's website, http://www.businessattorneyguide.com. The book will also be available in a matter of days on Amazon.com and through other distribution outlets.

I apologize for the plug, but this is an important subject. I do not know of any other publication that covers the same subject matter.

It should be stressed that the views in the Guide are mine alone, and the book does not purport to represent the views of Chorey, Taylor & Feil, A Professional Corporation, or other attorneys in the firm.

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