3 questions to ask your attorney before you hire

I have practiced law for 20 years and each year I am reminded how much more there is to learn.

I recall my Uncle Jim Gray, who was an attorney for 40 years before he died in 2005 of multiple myeloma, saying that he could not believe how little he really knew at the five-year mark of his law practice when he looked back after 35 years.  There are, however, some basic components that make it more likely that the attorney-client relationship will work.  Let me share a few below:

1.  Understand the costs.
Regardless of how you are paying for the services (hourly rate, flat fee, combination), be certain to understand both the fee and how it will be calculated.  I find it preferable to operate on a flat or fixed fee basis whenever possible. There certainty for both attorney and client.

2.  Know how your attorney will communicate with you.
Attorney Fees always garner the most attention but it is communication or the lack thereof that leads to the most problems.  You need to know how and how often your attorney is going to communicate with you prior to beginning work.  Are you going to be able to call your attorney and get through?  Will you be able to email and expect a response?

3.  Have a clear definition of success.
A wise person once said “if you don’t where you are going, you won’t know when you get there” (or something like that).  The same applies to the attorney-client relationship.  There need to be goals, milestones, and ways to measure when the goals have been met.  If you are doing estate planning, the goal is probably to execute the necessary documents.  If you are carrying selling a business, the closing of the deal is the goal.

What kind of questions would you ask your attorney before hiring her or him?

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Shawn J. Roberts, P.C. in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with my wife Amy and my two children, Sam (19) and David (11). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."