There are legal tasks that warrant an enormous amount of time if they are to be done properly. For those matters, it would be a disservice to you for your lawyer to do less. But there is also unbounded effort spent on matters that don’t matter. Your lawyer must know what not to do and when not to do it -- a critical skill that comes only with experience.
The client’s best defense to excessive lawyering is to be very clear on what will be helpful and to understand what your lawyer is going to do before he does it. For instance, if all you need is a yes or no, then a nine-page formal research memo accompanied by a corroborating PowerPoint explaining the memo (not kidding) telling you why it’s a yes or no is just a waste of money (and time).
As a running theme, the more you communicate openly and directly with your lawyer, the more successful the relationship will be.
Related: How to Find the Right Lawyer for You
Here are a few tips to make sure you are on the same page:
Have an active role in everything.
Sometimes excessive or misguided lawyering comes from the lawyer not understanding the client’s business and, therefore, what’s of consequence to the client. So, instead of asking, they assume everything is important. To accomplish what you want or need out of a transaction, you must be actively involved.
Be in on the call or meeting when the lawyers are fighting over business terms. Get a feel for how the negotiations are going and not just from your lawyer’s filtered reports back to you. Lawyers often dig in and fight over points that are not at all important to you, but will waste valuable time and money and potentially derail the negotiations and your deal. Being involved enables you to understand the dynamics and evaluate whether your lawyer’s approach to getting a deal done suits you. It will also allow you to tell your lawyer to stop fighting over points that don’t matter to you and move on. Lawyers tend to keep arguing for fear that they will give in on a point that MAY be important to you. Only you can put an end to that.
Understand the details.
If you don’t understand what is placed before you when you are finally ready to seal the deal, your lawyer has failed. It is entirely reasonable for you to expect to be able to understand the work-product for which you are paying. If you don’t understand an agreement’s substance, then you don’t know if it’s what you want or need. Do not fall into the “as long as my lawyer understands it” trap. She does not know your business the way you do.
Related: Hiring a Lawyer: 5 Mistakes to Avoid
Be an open book.
There are very few turnkey legal solutions. To get the most out of your lawyer, you must spill the beans. Known bad stuff is bad but can usually be made better. Unknown bad stuff most often ends up being far worse. Things that may not seem relevant can end up being highly relevant or dispositive. And without knowing all the facts, it is impossible for your lawyer to assess your prospects and give you sound advice.
Get ready to get your hands dirty.
You must also be prepared to get your hands dirty, or at least dusty. If you’re not involved and letting the lawyer run loose, there are likely to be costly disconnects between you. Whether it’s negotiating a deal or making judgment calls in a litigation, your input is essential. To have a suit successfully tailored, you need to be in it when the tailor sticks in his pins and draws his chalk lines. Same idea here. Be involved so that your matters comes our right.
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