Getting a lawyer seems like such a grownup thing to do but in case you hadn’t noticed, you are a grownup with a career, making real money, starting business ventures, making life changes and therefore you may need a lawyer. But how does one go about finding a lawyer? Is it just a Google search thing or what? And what can a lawyer really do for you? According to Rachel Rodgers, a work-at-home-lawyer-mom, having a lawyer means you can take advantage of opportunities to work with others, position your company to obtain financing and help you save major time with any legal needs you may have. I know you are worried about the costs but the time and energy it may take you to set up a business entity or attempt to put together a meaningful contract is often not worth it when you could be doing the things you do best and that make you money. We talked to some experts on the best ways for women specifically to go about finding a lawyer. The Grindstone presents The Savvy Career Woman’s Guide to Hiring A Lawyer.
Do your research
Hiring a lawyer is a major thing and you need to do some of the work too. Jacqueline Newman, a managing partner at a New York City law firm, told The Grindstone: “When you are researching a law firm, you should also look at who the associates are and do not just research the partner. Often partners will involve their associates in your case (with the goal of keeping fees down), so you want to know about not only the partner handling your case but the other people who you will be working with as well.”
Approach it like dating
Sarah Feingold, the in house attorney for Etsy and a jeweler, told The Grindstone: “Don’t be afraid to interview a few lawyers to find one with the right fit. Lawyers advise. They can’t predict the future and they’re not the ones to make business decisions. If you’re not sure about the direction the lawyer proposes, keep looking.”
Just like you would ask your friend if she knows any nice guys, ask your friends and family if they know any good lawyers. Wedding expert and author Nadia Digilov says if you know a successful individual that you respect, ask for a referral. This can be a friend, colleague, family member and/or a successful lawyer within a different practice.
Track your lawyer’s winnings
It’s 2012. You can stalk anyone and make snap judgements! This is not great for dating but excellent for selecting a lawyer. Wedding expert and author Nadia Digilov says nowadays wins this can be easily tracked. Also, successful lawyers will not keep that information under wraps so look for wins
Make sure you have chemistry with your lawyer
Wedding expert and author Nadia Digilov says you must work with a lawyer that you like and that likes you. That way, your experience together will be productive and stimulating and therefore more effective. Attorney Matthew Kamula says speaking to several attorneys in the practice area to see which one “clicks” with your business style and personality is essential.
Make sure you feel really comfortable with this person
Remember that Sex & the City episode where Charlotte realized she couldn’t be honest with her divorce lawyer because she was attracted to him? Well, you don’t want to be in that situation either. You need to be totally comfortable with this person. Jacqueline Newman, a managing partner at a New York City law firm, told The Grindstone: “When selecting attorneys the most crucial criteria needs to be that you choose people with whom you feel comfortable. You need to be able to communicate openly with your attorneys because even if you have attorneys with the greatest pedigrees, if you are not comfortable telling your attorneys everything, then you are not giving them the tools they need to perform their lawyer magic and live up to the credentials that brought you to those attorneys in the first place.”
Make sure the lawyer fits into your budget
Jacqueline Newman, a managing partner at a New York City law firm, told The Grindstone: “You need to work with someone who is within your price range so you do not end up paying more in legal fees than what you receive as a result of the lawsuit (assuming it is about financial issues). Lawyers can be very expensive and the bills add up quicker than you realize. That being said, you do not want to work with someone only because they are inexpensive because there can be times that lawyers charge lower rates because they do not have the experience or knowledge base to charge higher rates.”
Attorney Matthew Kamula says understanding the attorney’s fee structure and scope of work for the project the attorney will be engaged for and any other ancillary work.
Go in with the right questions
Attorney Matthew Kamula says Making sure that you have your questions, as many as you can think of, written down and in summary form to present to the attorney is important.
Sarah Feingold, the in house attorney for Etsy and a jeweler, told The Grindstone: “Do your own research and ask questions. Ask for the lawyer’s credentials. Has the lawyer done similar work in the past? What are the lawyer’s rates? Are they negotiable? Can you get a flat fee arrangement? How long will this project potentially take? Don’t just hire any ol’ lawyer. Talk to the lawyer first. What does your gut say? Do you think that the lawyer’s vision aligns with yours?”
Make sure you can easily contact them
Attorney Rachel Rodgers of the Rachel Rodgers Law Office works with mostly women clients. She told The Grindstone: “What I typically advise is that women do a Google search with the term “virtual law office” and the name of the woman’s state. This will allow the woman to find an attorney who is practicing law through an online law office in their home state.Virtual law offices are more accessible and often more affordable while offering bank level security, better customer service and dedicated attorneys.”
Don’t be exclusive with your lawyer
Sarah Feingold, the in house attorney for Etsy and a jeweler, told The Grindstone: “Don’t think you need to use one lawyer for everything. Lawyers specialize. Sometimes you can get a better rate by using different lawyers for different things.”
Don’t wait until there’s an issue to find a good lawyer
Sarah Feingold, the in house attorney for Etsy and a jeweler, told The Grindstone: “Sometimes getting something looked at by a lawyer will save you money in the long run. If you have a really important contract, paying a lawyer for its review can be a valuable investment.”