Skip to main content

What is the best way to work with an attorney when using their services (to prevent liabilities or misunderstanding)?

Boston, MA |

if I am hiring them for contract drafting/review, consulting and compliance work or general advisory how do I protect myself or just make sure that everything I'm doing has been "signed off" by an attorney? Do I get ALL conversation in writing and have all consulting work documented say, listed out in an email and have them respond with their approval of some sort?

how does this usually work

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

You should get a fee agreement in writing. If it is just drafting/reviewing a contract, the most appropriate agreement is a flat fee agreement. For consulting, advisory work, the agreement will most likely be an hourly fee agreement.

The most important thing is for the attorney to be very specific about the work to be performed and the charge for such work. For example, instead of "review of contract," the fee agreement should state "review of contract with x corporation regarding y obligations."

As you need to ultimately agree with the final contract, it should represent any and all conversations you had with the attorney. Keep good notes so that you can make sure that all items that you wished to be addressed in the contract are in the contract and any language or items you did not want addressed in the contract are not included in the contract.

A good attorney should protect themselves and you by emailing, faxing, or mailing a letter detailing your conversations to make sure that you are both on the same.

The content of this answer should not be relied upon or used as a subsitute for consultation with professional advisors and it should be clearly understood that no attorney-client privilege has been created. A more complete answer and/or more accurate answer can only be provided in a more thorough examination of the facts in a consultation with my firm.

Mark as helpful

1 found this helpful

8 lawyers agree

Posted

It seems as if you are concerned about some conduct that you are seeking the attorneys' approval for...and are using the attorney's advice to CYA. CORRECT? If so, you need an "attorney opinion letter" which is a document from legal counsel evaluating a specific course of action. You must discuss the specifics with your attorney and give him/her time to thoroughltly research the issues and draft the letter. In a sense, you are getting the advice of counsel you seem to need, but keep in mind that most attorneys wont "sign off" on a questionable course of action. The attorney will evaluate the pros and cons and can advise you on the potential consequences or likelihood that the conduct is "xyz" but wont necessarily sign off on it unless its crystal clear.

This response is not to be considered legal advice by anyone. This communication, alone, does not create an attorney-client privilege. Unless you have executed a fee agreement with the attorney, that is related to the subject matter contained in this communication, you are advised not to rely on this communication to make any decisions whatsoever or to create an attorney-client relationship. No attorney-client relationship shall exist with this attorney without a fee agreement executed by you and the attorney.

Mark as helpful

1 found this helpful

3 lawyers agree

3 comments

Asker

Posted

i'm just wondering how to prove that I have spoken with an attorney regarding the legal aspects of my business and that everything I'm doing is legal and policies are vetted. Since I am paying an attorney with particular expertise for advisory, I want to show I made the effort to the best of my knowledge to abide by the law and prevent any legal issues in the event that his advisory turns out to be poor or incorrect.

Travis J. Jacobs

Travis J. Jacobs

Posted

This is exactly the type of situation you want an attorney opinion letter for. It may cost more because the atty is putting it on the line but its the best way to CYA if you're testing the limits of a civil reg or statute or case law.

Asker

Posted

so what happens in the event that the attorney fails to bring up scenario A or overlooks strategy B that ends up costing me or god forbid tanking my business?

Posted

You are asking two different questions:
1. How to make sure you and the attorney are on the same page. For this you need a fee agreement that spells out what the attorney will be handling for you. As of 1/1/13, Massachusetts now requires written fee agreements. This document will explain what the attorney will charge, how they will charge (hourly or fixed fee or contingent) and what they will be doing for you;
2. The second question seems to ask how you know you can rely on the attorney’s advice. In this case you are asking for a legal opinion letter. This is something that you can request of the attorney for the compliance work. In such a case the attorney should conduct detailed research in the area requested and give you a written opinion as to the actions you are taking. The caveat with this is that legal opinion letters can be costly so expect to have to pay for this. I am not suggesting that you cannot rely on advice generally, but a legal opinion letter is more in depth advice based on the facts you provide to the attorney and significant legal research conducted by the attorney.

The above statements are provided as general information and not intended as legal advice. Each matter has its own set of unique circumstances that cannot be adequately addressed without consultation. You are strongly advised to hire an attorney licensed to practice law in your state to represent you.

Mark as helpful

1 found this helpful

2 lawyers agree

2 comments

Asker

Posted

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.

Scott J. Wittlin

Scott J. Wittlin

Posted

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.

Professional ethics topics

Top tips from attorneys

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer

Browse all legal topics