We all have different legal needs. But before you can gauge whether a lawyer is capable of fulfilling those needs, you need to define them in your own mind. Otherwise, you’ll have nothing to evaluate prospective lawyers against.
Bottom line: How will a lawyer know what you want if you don’t know what you want? They won’t. You need to work it out and tell them. That way, lawyers have a target to aim at and you drive results.
Consider these 4 questions to get you thinking about what you want out of your lawyer and to focus on the results that matter most to you. You might be surprised where your thinking ends up.
1. How big is your problem or opportunity?
It all starts with your legal problem or opportunity. How important is it on a scale of personal relevance starting at ‘mild’ and ending in ‘extreme’ that you get the right legal results? Does it keep you up at night? How vital is it that you outperform your opposition, whether in a business deal, court room or dispute?
As an example, a custody battle might be for you on the extreme side whereas a small loan to a family member may be on the mild side. You get the picture.
2. What outcome do you really want?
Think about the legal outcomes you want and don’t want. This will lead you to defining the attributes and skills you need from your lawyer.
Let’s say you have an exciting business opportunity that is low risk and high reward, where time is of the essence. Here, you might want a contract lawyer who only focuses on the big ticket items to get the deal across the line.
Whereas, on other another occasion, let’s say you have a business opportunity that comes with considerable risk. Here, you might want a lawyer who is focused on the details and mitigating risk.
You’d be surprised at how different lawyers operate and the approaches they take, so take steps to find the lawyer with the right approach.
3. What level of expertise do you need?
Do you require the very best and most experienced lawyer or is a sound operator satisfactory? This comes back to how big the problem or opportunity you have is, how important it is to you and what outcomes you are after.
A good starting point is to look for a lawyer with the appropriate level of expertise and experience. It makes sense that the lawyer’s expertise and experience should match the complexity of your brief. Not all matters require the attention of an experienced lawyer, skilled in the nuances of the relevant area of law. Some don’t require the same level of experience and are capable of being performed by less senior lawyers at a more cost effective rate.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what level of expertise you require, depending on how you view your legal problem or opportunity. Clients take differing views. For example, some consider purchasing a residential property to be a routine transaction and have no problem having the work completed at a lower cost by a less experienced lawyer. Whereas others consider that an asset purchase of such importance warrants a high level of expertise and they are prepared to pay accordingly.
4. How cost sensitive is your problem or opportunity?
How much are you willing to spend? This will depend on your personal circumstances and financial situation. But it also comes back to how big your problem or opportunity is. The more important the issue, the more you will be willing to spend on getting legal advice.
On the other hand, there is no point in spending top dollar every time you need legal advice when your problem or opportunity doesn’t justify the spend.
Go to market
By giving this some thought you’ll be in a good position to ask the right questions as you go to market to find a lawyer who ticks your boxes.