Some of you don’t work with attorneys often. Others do, but may wish to increase your level of satisfaction. Not surprisingly, when working with an attorney, good communication is the key to maximizing the relationship. Prior to forming my own legal practice, I hired and supervised many outside attorneys on behalf of a large corporation, and observed a wide range of working styles and personalities. As we enter into our fifth year at Zeidel & Associates, I strive to apply best practices. Here are a few tips on how to help the attorney of your choice work best for you:
- Tell Us What We Need to Know. When you are ready to get attorneys involved, spend some upfront time to educate us on your business goals for the transaction and set expectations. Give us some background and context – what are your biggest concerns? What are the anticipated sticking points? Who are the players? What is the timing? This helps us prioritize the right issues in your time frame.
- Working Style. Tell your attorney about your working preferences. Do you like email or phone communications? Do you want us to take the lead on the transaction, or advise from behind the scenes? Do you expect to be copied on every written communication or is your inbox too jammed? No two clients are the same; let us adjust to your preferences.
- Experience Matters. Be candid with us about whether you have handled this kind of deal before, and whether you are familiar with the legal documents and relevant industry customs and practice, or if certain concepts are unfamiliar. We can then give you the right level of support, so that you can make informed decisions.
- Who’s Involved. Let us know who’s on your team. Will in house counsel be involved? Do you have partners who will weigh in? A lender with consent rights? A board who must give the green light? A broker? We need to understand who will make the decisions and provide direction, and when and how to involve team members.
- Level of Participation. Do you review drafts closely, and provide input on the language? Or do you prefer to focus on big picture issues and defer to us on the details? Let your attorneys know your preferred level of involvement in the deal specifics. We can then confidently advance the deal when we know you are on board.
- Bring Us in Early. If possible, get us involved at an early stage. Let us review the term sheet before it is signed. This will help resolve issues up front, or at least, flag them so that you are aware of potential roadblocks down the line, with less potential for surprise.
- Divide and Conquer. If you plan to handle certain tasks yourself, let us know. Which of us will coordinate with your accounting or insurance experts, banking representatives, or specialists like local counsel? How will internal functions such as final execution of documents be verified and completed? Let’s coordinate so we’re not duplicating efforts or letting anything fall through the cracks.
- Deadlines. If you know you will need support from your attorneys soon, give us a heads up. This permits us to adjust our schedule to maximize our availability for you. And keep us informed even if there is nothing for us to do immediately, just so we stay up to speed. When you become aware of a deadline, please share.
- Speak Up. Do you feel that certain protections for your transaction are critical, but aren’t addressed? Do you find yourself redrafting documents, so that they meet your expectations? If you don’t agree with your attorney’s approach, make some noise. While your attorney’s advice is critical, ultimately, your attorneys should take informed direction from you.
Keep Evolving. Touch base from time to time with your attorney to share feedback about your working relationship, so that your attorneys can continue to strive to meet your expectations. It’s our goal to continue to improve your level of satisfaction.
For more information about what we might be able to do for you, please contact our offices directly.