I am sometimes called into situations where clients have hired other attorneys and aren’t happy with their services (or bills). I mean, I’ve heard some loud complaints. Another scenario I’ve encountered: the client comes to me with an employment-related agreement that lacks basic terms (hopelessly vague) or isn’t enforceable. So it becomes obvious to me that either 1) the client found something on the internet and copied it, or 2) prior counsel didn’t know what they were doing or did not do it carefully. What to do?
If you’re an individual reading this and you don’t have money for a regular attorney’s rate, you may apply to various state or local agencies for free or reduced-cost help with some types of matters. You may also file certain litigations on your own behalf (although not all) and ask that the Court appoint you free counsel – yes, even in a civil case. Call your state’s bar association, as well; they may have other suggestions, such as working with supervised students at a law school.
If you are looking for counsel on a business matter, then as Mama said, SHOP AROUND. Here’s how:
- Look for a specialist in the particular area(s) of law involved. Don’t call your neighbor because he’s the only attorney you know. Don’t rely on your best friend (that can get messy) or even their recommendations without doing your own research.
- To find a specialist, you may turn to the web, but don’t defer to the attorneys at the top of the page (they paid Google for the privilege). You could also look in local recent publications for “Best Lawyers” lists, but only those where attorneys are peer-selected. How long have they been practicing in that area? Do they claim so many specialties that it’s a bit suspect?
- After locating some attorneys who list the area as a specialty, contact several attorneys. Describe your situation, ask how often they handle this type of matter and for how many years. Just like a surgeon, you’re looking for someone who’s handled this procedure many times.
- Don’t go to the firm your organization “has used forever” unless you are very comfortable with the expertise and experience of the current lawyers at the firm (and their rates; ask).
- Ask: who will handle the bulk of the work, the experienced partner or the new associate?
- Get quotes from qualified attorneys. There is a huge range of billable rates for the same work from very similar lawyers. Recently I was on a call with lawyers from a firm (who aren’t as experienced). The two of them on the other end of the phone cost their client almost three times what I charged my client.
These might seem time-consuming. But these efforts could save tens of thousands of dollars.
ABOUT KATHERINE WITHERSPOON FRY
For over 25 years, Katherine has provided her clients with robust representation in matters of employment and related business law. Katherine represents and counsels employers and executives in all facets of the employment relationship, including hiring, termination, discrimination, non-competition, Fair Labor Standards Act matters, issues regarding Family and Medical Leave and other leaves, whistleblowers’ complaints, and regulatory matters. As a litigator, she is well aware of the nuances of law necessary to draft effective restrictive covenants, severance agreements, and employment contracts. Along with her over 250 colleagues, she represents companies and non-profit organizations of all sizes. She has defended companies under investigation by both U.S. and state Departments of Labor and handled multiple matters before the EEOC.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman, one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the United States, serves dynamic businesses, individuals and families. With 17 offices and nearly 250 lawyers who counsel clients across more than 30 areas of practice, Offit Kurman helps maximize and protect business value and personal wealth by providing innovative and entrepreneurial counsel that focuses on clients’ business objectives, interests and goals. The firm is distinguished by the quality, breadth and global reach of its legal services and a unique operational structure that encourages a culture of collaboration. For more information, visit www.offitkurman.com.
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