Have you met your lawyer? Your lawyer has been given the task of speaking and advocating on your behalf. There is no higher honor or burden to bestow on someone else. Why then, would you let a perfect stranger be your representative on your personal or business dispute? There is no reason. Yet daily, clients let the firm rainmaker or managing partner sell the firm to the client then assign the matter to an attorney whom the client knows nothing about. This has to stop.
In this day and age of video conferencing methods (voice IP, Skype for free video conferencing and a host of other online video meeting sites and software), there is no excuse for not meeting your lawyer early in the engagement.
A judge, a jury, opposing counsel, company representatives, witnesses, court personnel and many others will meet and interact with your lawyer. Their impression and interaction will determine their future cooperation, behavior and receptiveness to interacting with the attorney and the legal team. It behooves every client to take the time to meet counsel.
What do you want to know besides what she looks like and how she dresses? It depends on the engagement but here are at least a few key questions to raise in a matter involving negotiations or a dispute of any type. One reason to ask the questions is for the content of the answers. The other equally important reason is to determine if the attorney has the personality qualities that you want in the person assigned to represent you/your company in the legal matter.
- How many times have you been lead counsel in a similar matter? What was the value of the matter that was at risk?
- Did the matter result in a good result for your client or a better result for the opposition? Get details.
- Do you provide budgets on your files? How close to budget have your cases come in over the past year?
- How many lawyers work with you on a matter? What is the maximum and minimum? What are the levels of experience of those lawyers and their purpose on the team (Training? Cost-effective work? Leading a team of younger attorneys?)?
- Who assigns the work for your cases, a junior person or you personally?
- Who most often has the contact with opposing counsel and the court on your matters?
- Are you required to report to anyone on this file while it is pending?
- How technologically savvy are you? Do you write most of your own work or rely extensively on staff?
The answers matter. The more involved in doing the work or at least assigning the tasks, the smaller the team, the closer to budget, the greater the experience in similar matters, and the more personal contact with the court and opposing counsel, the better chance you have of knowing who is doing your work. And just as importantly, knowing that the professional you retained and are comfortable with, is actually representing your best interests. It doesn’t cost extra to ask the questions, so just do it.