Hiring a lawyer? Do it right the first time

Gavel to Gavel

published in The Journal Record | March 14, 2019

As a trial lawyer whose practice encompasses a broad range of complex business disputes — from business breakups and contract disputes to trust and estate litigation and lawsuits over real estate — my work is varied, as are the clients I represent. Across all the case types I practice in, there is one statement I find myself repeating over and over: If you want to avoid having to eventually pay a litigator (like me) a lot of money, hire a competent lawyer with subject matter expertise and experience to assist you in whatever you are doing. Don’t skimp on cost because litigation seems like a remote possibility.

This is simple and probably obvious, but smart and experienced businesspeople ignore it every day.

Forming a business? Need a contract? Buying or selling real estate? Looking for an estate plan? Find someone with subject matter expertise to troubleshoot, walk you through the process, and draft the relevant documents.

It is difficult to overstate how much money in litigation fees would be saved if this practice were consistently followed — and how much is lost to litigation as a result of poor document drafting.

When a document is well-drafted (regardless of what it is), it is much more likely that a suit about it can be won early in the process, before big fees are incurred. Even when the situation is not so clear-cut, if the document is well-drafted and everyone can at least agree on what it means, cases are easier to settle. And then there are the myriad lawsuits that are never filed because potential litigants are told by their lawyers that a document is ironclad and suit is just not worth pursuing.

How to identify someone with expertise to protect from future litigation depends on the nature of the matter, but some questions generally hold true: Have you handled this specific type of matter before? How many times? What were the results? Do you have references? What subject-matter-specific resources do you or your firm have that will help with this matter?

None of this is to say hiring competent counsel is a panacea or will guarantee litigation wins down the road. Anyone can sue anyone over anything, and any lawsuit can be lost. But in the aggregate, the benefits to spending upfront money to hire someone with specific expertise are real.

This article appeared in the March 14, 2019, issue of The Journal Record. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher. © The Journal Record Publishing Co.