Managing the Client-Lawyer Interface

Learning Outcome #7 Upon successful completion of this subject the student will be able to: Communicate effectively with lawyers.

lawyer, attorney, solicitor, barrister etc. are terms (which while not being equivalent) all represent descriptions of practitioners of the legal profession.

The function of a business lawyer is to supply advice and information so that the client can make informed decisions. Generally speaking this relates to consequences of proposed actions and probabilities of the occurrence of those consequences

When should you talk to your Lawyer
• Before you get into trouble, with the aim of avoiding trouble, and • Immediately after you have gotten into trouble, with the aim of getting out of trouble having minimized the impact of that trouble

Things to consider in hiring a lawyer
• references, consult others that have worked with this lawyer or firm • industry experience • connections / correspondent relationships • personality / comfort level

Outline what you want from your lawyer
• What do you want your International lawyer to do?
– Research local laws? – Draft documents ? – Due diligence ? – Lead negotiations on a major deal ? – Litigation / Arbitration / Mediation ?

The Client / Lawyer Relationship
• Whether you work in a company and are dealing with an in-house lawyer or whether you are using a private law firm, you are the client and the client instructs the lawyer. • In order to give informed instructions you should have a basic understanding of International legal issues. Hopefully you will have received that by taking this course.

The Engagement Letter
• • • • • • • • What will it cost ? (establish this up front) Is your lawyer an employee of your company and if so is there an allocation of his/her time to your division or project ? If your lawyer is outside counsel what is the fee arrangement ? an hourly rate and if so what is it ? a “prix fixe” cost for the entire project ? a contingency deal whereby the lawyer or his/her firm takes a % of something ? a combination of the above ? what about a retainer (equivalent to a deposit)
– After retaining your lawyer, send a detailed engagement letter which should cover the fee structure you have agreed to, the budget, expectations, duties of the parties, who else in the firm will be working on the file (is this person a junior and if so how does his/her rate differ ?) Any other foreseeable issues….. – Who will you deal with on a day to day basis ?

What to tell your lawyer
• everything !

Legal Advice
• A lawyer should advise you on what to do, when to do it, and the possible consequences, in other words alternative strategies can be proposed (some daring in nature) but the consequences of each need to be spelled out.

You call the shots !
• Lawyers (in general) are not to make the business decisions…..you are ! but you need all the information relative to the legality and consequences of any decisions you may take.

Language
Agree on the language issue up front. It must be established how literate you are in legal technical language (legalese). And how literate is your lawyer in your native tongue? Best to stick with plain English wherever possible.

Deadlines
Make sure your lawyer understands what deadlines you may have and is willing to work within those deadlines.

Methods of Communication
Agree in advance how you are going to use phone, FAX, mail, courier,and e-mail.