If you have a business, it is practically inevitable that you will need the help of a commercial litigation lawyer at some point. About 90% of all businesses are engaged in litigation at any given time.
Commercial litigation lawyers help protect the interests of your business, enforce your contracts, and avoid liability. Proactive planning for any business should always include hiring a business attorney.
When Do You Need a Commercial Litigation Attorney?
Ideally, you should keep a business law firm on retainer. That way you will be able to turn to them quickly for legal advice as issues arise. You can consult your attorney on matters of business formation, compliance, contracts, and more.
When a dispute arises, you will already have an established relationship with your attorney and know you can trust them to look out for your best interests. Common business disputes concern matters such as:
- Wage and hour compliance,
- Breach of contract,
- Intellectual property,
- Harassment or discrimination claims,
- Shareholder oppression,
- Partnership conflicts,
- Real estate,
- Violation of nondisclosure and noncompete agreements,
- Unpaid insurance claims,
- Tortious interference,
- Zoning and land use,
- Breach of fiduciary duty,
- Debt collection,
- Misappropriation of trade secrets, and
- Product liability.
Basically any dispute relating to your business can benefit from the advice and support of a commercial litigation attorney.
What Should You Look for in an Attorney?
When you are trying to choose a commercial attorney, there are some important things you should research.
You need an attorney with experience with the specific legal issue you are facing. It’s a good idea to choose a law firm that focuses primarily on commercial litigation and business law.
Many firms will include information about their case results on their websites. The outcome of each case is different and depends on many factors. But a track record of positive results demonstrates a law firm’s skills and abilities.
With the evolution of the internet, there are many resources for evaluating the quality of a law firm. It is difficult for bad lawyers to hide from negative reviews.
When researching your attorney, you should look at both professional and client reviews. See how the firm and its lawyers are ranked by independent review sites such as U.S. News and World Report, Best Lawyers, and Thomson Reuters’ Super Lawyers. Or read client reviews on Avvo.
What Questions Should You Ask in an Initial Consultation?
When interviewing firms, you should take it as an opportunity to really evaluate whether the firm is a good fit for your business.
You need to feel confident that the lawyer can handle your complex business matters. So ask questions like:
- How long have you been practicing business law?
- What percentage of your practice is devoted to commercial litigation?
- How much experience do you have with the specific issue I am concerned about?
You should feel comfortable that your lawyer can successfully represent you.
Communication and Attention
Communication is key when dealing with a lawyer. You want to find someone who will be responsive and can give you the attention you deserve. Ask your potential attorney:
- How many other clients do you have?
- Will you handle my case personally or will it be assigned to another lawyer?
- How much of my business will be handled by junior attorneys and assistants?
- How quickly can I expect you to return phone calls and emails?
- What is your preferred method of communication?
You can also evaluate the lawyer’s communicativeness based on how they treated you in your initial interview. Did they listen to what you had to say? Did they let you explain your individual needs?
It’s important to get an idea up front of what a lawyer will cost you. Ask:
- Do you charge per hour or do you have flat rates for certain tasks?
- What are your hourly rates?
- What are the hourly rates for matters handled by staff?
- How often will I be billed?
- How much is your retainer?
You don’t necessarily want to go with the cheapest lawyer, especially if they seem to lack experience. But you should feel confident that you will get valuable service for the price you are paying.
Ideally, your relationship with your business attorney will be ongoing. Since you will be collaborating with your attorney over a long period of time, it’s important that you choose someone you can work with. Ask your prospective attorney:
- What is your approach to business litigation?
- How proactive will you be about helping me avoid litigation?
- How much input do you need or expect from me?
- How much time do you have to devote to my case?
- How quickly do you complete projects?
There aren’t necessarily right or wrong answers to any of these questions. What’s important is that the lawyer’s philosophy matches your own. Do you want to do some of the legal legwork yourself and just rely on your attorney for advice? If so, you may clash with a lawyer who has an autocratic work style. On the other hand, a business owner who is uninterested in dealing with legal minutia may appreciate that they can rely on that lawyer to get things done.
How Do I Choose a Commercial Litigation Attorney?
Once you have done your research and conducted your interviews, it will be time to select an attorney. Be sure to select someone that:
- Has the experience you need,
- Is easy to communicate with,
- Makes you feel comfortable,
- Fits within your budget, and
- Has a good reputation and track record.
Once you have checked these items off the list, it really comes down to your gut feeling. Which attorney or law firm do you feel confident about? Which one shares your vision for your business? Which can you see yourself working with for years to come?
And remember, as much as it would be great to build a long-standing relationship with your attorney, you’re not stuck with them. If they start to work for you and you notice mistakes, communication problems, or inefficiency, you can start shopping around for another firm.
Ultimately, you know what is best for your business. With a little research, you can be confident in your choice of a commercial litigation lawyer.
I appreciate the reminder that choosing an attorney you get along with is crucial because you will be working with them for a long time. I’ll be sure to pass this along to my cousin, who has been considering hiring a commercial litigation attorney, to keep in mind. Since he hasn’t yet hired a lawyer, I’ll look into local attorneys who could be able to assist him.