Obtaining value from lawyers: some personal tips


I am a lawyer and on an increasing basis, have had to instruct lawyers. I have and continue to learn from this and share some of my lessons here:


  • Avoid seeking advice on your solution. Seeking advice on your solution risks cutting off advice on options and other solutions an experienced lawyer may be able to share. It closes down your possibilities and the advice you receive. Example: Ask a lawyer for advice (options/risk and value) on the company parting ways with an executive as opposed to asking for a terminating letter making him redundant.


  • Accept risk. If you are seeking advice on what to do next, make it clear that in the first instance, you are looking for a view only and not formal advice you will rely on and that you will accept the risk of having asked for that only. Many advisers are not in a position to offer their view without protecting themselves (and their firms). Protection comes in the form of more time being incurred in notes and lengthy advice. The option remains to then shift the risk by taking formal advice.


  • Avoid deciding what expertise you are looking for (as much as possible). A similar point but you will get better value if you present the circumstances and let the lawyers decide what expertise you need to solve it. You may risk missing expertise that would add real value to the issues.


  • Always explain what your ideal outcome is. It can happen that advice is given without establishing what it is you are really looking to achieve. Avoid this as there can be substantial wasted costs and time.


  • Always agree fees at the outset and ask for a weekly update on the fee position. If you are uncomfortable with the fees, raise it as soon as possible to avoid difficult conversations down the line. Many lawyers are also reluctant to talk fees.


  • Avoid lengthy discussions on scope. I have strong feelings about scope.


  • Clearly state what, in practice, you want from your lawyer. Do you want a report of all options risks etc; a one line email, or just a steer on a call. Pay for what you need and ask for. Often, wheels are set in motion to deliver a type of advice that you may not want or need.


  • Establish who (not what firm, supervising partner or team) will be working with you and meet that person. Ultimately, the mutual trust and respect is key to you obtaining value from your lawyer.


– Tania Tandon

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