Author: John C. Mitby
At Hurley, Burish & Stanton, S.C., we believe that it is very important that a legal “project” be results-oriented and the results are obtained in a cost-effective way. There must also be an understanding of the “plan” as to how the matter will be timely handled and what you, as the client, can do to help control legal costs and work with your attorney on obtaining good results.
At the beginning of a project, we want to discuss the matter with you and come to an understanding as to the legal “plan.” The goal is to create a plan that is a client-winner – before we start the legal work. Why?
- First, the “plan” shows that there is a strategy and that the various aspects and expectations have been understood. At the beginning, it is important to have trust between the client and attorney; but until the details are explored, there is nothing current on which to base that trust. However, once there is a plan, we believe we are different than other lawyers where the client “sort of” finds out what direction things have taken when he/she gets the first legal bill. Before that first bill, we want to establish a level of trust, in part, because we have planned out and discussed the options and what possible results might be obtained based on the experience we have in similar matters. The plan also helps in discussing legal costs. But just as important, we can have an agreement on the timing and urgency of the matter which helps in planning how and when to do things in a cost-effective way.
- The plan also shows how complicated the legal matter is and what facts or information are needed to move forward. Some legal matters are not routine due to their complexity, the nature and status of the law, and frankly, who is involved on the other side in terms of number of parties and their willingness to work toward solutions. Not all opposing parties or their attorneys approach legal issues the same way. If that looks like the case, it is important to understand and plan for such responses at the beginning of a project as opposed to half-way through when time, legal fees, and emotions have taken over. Plus you may be surprised at just how many things have to happen in order for the matter to be completed. By having a plan, you realize all the steps that are needed to minimize risk and obtain a reasonable result. The simple goal is for you, the client, to have a plan so you can review what is being done on your legal matter.
- The plan will also identify the team – and that team includes you. You have the facts, certain information, and insight as to the problem; and we need that information to achieve a favorable and cost-effective solution. The plan will also show how attorneys in the firm fit into the plan. It’s not just the attorney’s legal skills, it’s also the ability to harness the power of the law firm team at Hurley, Burish & Stanton: attorneys with many years of experience in a wide variety of legal matters.
As to the plan, how does this happen? It can be done in a very formal way as part of an engagement letter setting forth the scope of work and billing rates (in fact, on legal matters for new clients, there will always be a written engagement letter and conflict check so the client knows we do not represent the “other” side). Or after the first conference or meeting, an email can outline the plan; and we then can finalize the plan before we move forward. This is perhaps the most important part because the plan sets forth the legal issues, what is needed, how to do things cost-effectively, alternatives that might apply, and an understanding of the legal costs involved. The results are establishing a level of trust and minimizing the risk of surprises or misunderstandings. Plus with a plan, the focus on cost-effective results makes the goal a lot easier for both the client and the attorney.
We hope you will consider Hurley, Burish & Stanton, S.C. should a legal need arise.