Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How To Hire A Lawyer

It's best to hire an attorney before you actually need one. Who wants to start screening law firms when they're dealing with the stress of a pending lawsuit or in the middle of a contract negotiation? Beth Gaudio, from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Legal Foundation, offers these tips when looking for an attorney.

1. Begin with smart resources.
*State and county bar associations. Find local contact information through the American Bar Association, http://www.abanet.org.
*The Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, a legal network established more than 133 years ago, http://www.martindale.com.
*Word of mouth. Ask small-business colleagues for recommendations.
2. Find the right fit.
Always interview two or three lawyers before making your final decision.
3. Ask the important questions.
When you meet with potential lawyers ask questions such as: How long have you been in practice? If your small business is currently dealing with a case, ask how many cases like yours that person has handled. Do they typically go to trial or are most of their cases settled out of court? How much do they estimate this case will cost? How long do they estimate this type of case will take to settle or go to court?
4. Carefully review the terms of agreement.
If you don't understand something a lawyer is saying, ask for clarification. Don't let the lawyer overwhelm you with legal jargon. And don't sign anything until you have time to review the contract and consider other offers.
5. Be thrifty; to avoid quickly racking up lots of legal fees:
* Don't make unnecessary phone calls to your lawyer's office.
* Always put your questions and concerns in writing and keep a copy for yourself.
* Require that your attorney get your authorization for expenses that exceed $200, and ask for copies of all receipts.
* Meet quarterly to assess the progress of your case compared to your budget.

For more detailed information on finding a lawyer, visit www.NFIB.com/legal and request a copy of Helpful Tips for Hiring a Lawyer, a resource developed specifically for small-business owners.

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