so how does legal counsel generally work? does the attorney just give oral advisory without documentation? If in the fee agreement includes review of contract or business operations or whatever for legal compliance, is it implied that the attorney is responsible for any issues that arise?
A broader question is: how can I hold the attorney accountable for incompetence (for lack of a better word) and inexperience. Obviously, there isn't always a "best" or black-and-white decision that is risk-free, but all too often people who don't know what they're doing for whatever reason give you bad advice and as a paying client who is uneducated in the intricacies of the law, I don't feel I should be held accountable.
A lawyer can give advice in a variety of ways and forms. One way is orally, through a phone call or in person. Another way is in writing, can be through an e-mail, memo or a legal opinion.
When reviewing a contract an attorney will typically review and comment on the contract to protect your rights. Some of the responsibility is on the client to tell the attorney specifically what they want. I am not suggesting you need to tell the lawyer how to do the legal work, but if you have specific requirements that must be in the contract you need to tell the lawyer so they can draft that into the agreement. Generally the review of a contract is also a negotiation. Although your attorney may recommend a clause the other side may not agree. In that case the attorney needs to explain the risks to you, you need to decide to accept or decline that risk.
Part of the answer to the second question you ask is making sure to tell the attorney your requirements for the contract. A good attorney will sit with you and listen to your needs. They will tell you if your expectations are realistic. When picking an attorney I suggest you interview a few (ask friends for suggestions, not the phone book) and make sure they have experience in the area you need.
I see you are in Boston, so is my office, feel free to look me up and call me or e-mail me. If I cannot help you I would be happy to see if I can find someone I know that can assist you.