It might seem like a simple question, but in reality how do you go about hiring a new lawyer? Should you just use someone you have before, even if they don’t specialise in the area of law you need help with? Should you just ‘have a Google’ and hope for the best? ….phone a friend? The best approach is probably a mix of all of the above.
Whether your a seasoned legal services user or have never instructed a lawyer before, follow our fool proof plan to get the right lawyer for the job.
Step 1: Define the problem and what you want
Before starting to look for a suitable lawyer, its really important to clearly define the problem you want help with. This will help a great deal later on in the process when obtaining quotes – the clearer you are with your instructions, the better the lawyer can assess the project and provide a more tailored quote. If you make it sound complicated when it isn’t, just because you’ve not thought it through, then the chances are that you’ll end up paying more.
Once you know what you want help with, you should consider:
- Practice area – is the area of law which applies to your problem clear (i.e. review of an employment contract) or not (i.e. a complex commercial agreement covering intellectual property, competition law issues and with a financing element)? It helps to try and identify the area of law if possible so you know which lawyers to contact.
- Scope – what do you actually want the lawyer to do? What is the commercial rationale for the deal? If the work is to review a contract which is non-negotiable but you want to understand the risks, then this is different to undertaking a full negotiation with many rounds of comments. Let your lawyer know your what are your expectations.
- Deadline -when is the deadline for the work to be completed? Is this actually realistic for what you are asking them to do? Will there be further work needed over time or is it a one off matter?
- Budget – what is your budget? Most large law firms have multiple departments which can assist you, however this comes at a higher price.
Once you are clear with your requirements, you need to actually identify suitable options.
Step 2: Do your research
Research, research, research! You do not want to lose time and money by making the wrong choice. Try some (or all) of the following to help:
Google: Just Google it, right? A quick search for ‘law firm London‘ provides with 133 million results so its important to be much more focused. After following the process outlined in Step 1 above, you’ll know the area of practice you need help with and the type of firm which might be appropriate for your budget and service expectations.
Legal Directories: Alternatives to blindingly relying on Google include reviewing legal directories such as Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. These directories extensively research law firms and their clients to provide a ranking score, they also highlight particularly lawyers who are at the top of their game. These guides are good to differentiate between firms at the top of the rankings – big international law firms – but are less helpful when looking at smaller, national firms.
Word of mouth: Its always worth reaching out to friends and colleagues in the same industry as you to see which lawyer they use. If the someone’s name keeps popping up, then the chances are that it may be worth approaching them.
Once you have an idea of who you might use, its always worth crosschecking via at least one other research method to make sure they really are suitable.
Step 3: Fees and payment
Lawyers usually charge an hourly rate which is broken down into 6 minute increments. There are a number of alternative fee structures that can be put in place, the most common being fixed fees and fee caps.
As you can imagine, fees under a fixed fee arrangement are fixed. When these are agreed, lawyers will usually tightly define the scope of work to be undertaken (after reviewing your request for a quote), any work which falls outside that scope is then charged at the agreed hourly rate.
In a fee cap arrangement the lawyer will usually give a range of fees which may be incurred but is prepared to agree a ceiling price (the cap). The advantage of these arrangements is that you theoretically know the maximum amount payable for the work so that there are no nasty surprises down the line – unless of course the scope changes significantly or work drifts outside the agreed scope.
Depending on the nature of the work, occasionally you may be asked to pay a portion of the fees up front. If the work is lengthy, fees are usually paid on a monthly basis rather than in a big chunk at the end – though this is usually up for negotiation.
Is there an easier way…?
As you can see the process of finding the best lawyer for the work you need doing is complicated, time-consuming and a little confusing! At Freelance.legal we offer an easier way – we do all the work for you.
Our platform connects great lawyers with the businesses and individuals that need them. All of the lawyers on our platform are at least 5 years qualified and have worked at top tier law firms. We interview and vet the lawyers who apply to join Freelance.legal to make sure they know their stuff and that they are going to provide you with the best service. As a curated platform our lawyers are rated each time they do work and clients are asked to write reviews. When you request a quote via our platform you will usually receive multiple responses so you can easily compare and chose the right lawyer for you.
Next time you need a lawyer you can either chose to do all the work yourself, or let us do it for you; for free…