We recently came across a very interesting and valuable article in Forbes Magazine in which the author discusses her experiences and insights about retaining legal counsel to represent her. The article can be found here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2013/06/04/nothing-is-more-expensive-than-a-cheap-lawyer/
This article is a must-read for all entrepreneurs and anyone who is running a business, has just started a business or is thinking about starting a business. As the author explains, one of the biggest mistakes she made early on as an entrepreneur was hiring cheap lawyers or not using an expensive lawyer nearly enough, thinking she was saving money for her business. But over the years, the school of hard knocks taught her just how expensive cheap legal help can be.
The author learned early on that while “Heaven would be a world where the need for lawyers didn’t even exist – where everyone could be trusted to uphold their word, where no one would ever have misunderstood expectations in their agreements, and where a simple conversation could settle any dispute that arose. But we aren’t in heaven – not yet anyway – and we certainly aren’t living in a perfect world, so the cold hard truth is that when push comes to shove, you better be hoping to heaven you have a great lawyer there to have your back.”
The author also explains what in her opinion defines a truly great lawyer: “I finally came to learn, after many years of trial and error, what the definition of a truly great lawyer is: A truly great lawyer is one who will start the contract draft out fair and balanced, rather than trying to make a one-sided agreement with the hope the other party will just sign without reading. A lawyer who is looking to take advantage of the other party is not the kind of lawyer you want because business is about ongoing relationships, not churning and burning from one client to the next. A great lawyer is also one that will help you get a deal done! They will educate you on what terms you need to be more reasonable on as you negotiation with the other party, pointing out which points are truly important to have kept in the agreement and which points are really not worth fighting over. A lawyer who will help you find a balanced win/win for both sides, while making sure that no one takes advantage of you, is the best kind of lawyer there is, and they are worth every dime you pay them, regardless of their hourly rate!”
In the final analysis, the only regrets of the author when it came to legal bills and lawyers was either not spending enough money to hire the good ones, or the times I thought I was saving money by hiring the cheap ones. As she says, “Go ahead and make as many lawyer jokes as you want to (because let’s face it, some of them are just plain hilarious!), but never forget that nothing will be more expensive to your company than hiring cheap lawyers, and nothing will be more painful than hiring the wrong ones.”
This article is dead on as to what we have learned in our 28 years of representing clients and, in the process, interacting with opposing lawyers of every imaginable type. We have always modeled ourselves to be “truly great” lawyers of the type described in the article. And we could not agree more that businesses simply cannot afford (both money-wise and business-wise) to hire less than competent lawyers just to try to save a few dollars.